Early Puberty More Likely in Obese, Overweight Girls

These girls are at higher long-term risk for conditions, diseases related to obesity
By Beth Gilbert
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Overweight and obese girls are likely to reach puberty earlier than their normal-weight counterparts, and are also at risk for the long-term health consequences related to obesity, according to a review published online July 29 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Emily C. Walvoord, M.D., of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, reviewed more than 100 studies to assess the effect and timing of excessive weight gain, the effect of obesity on pubertal timing among girls as compared to boys, and the causes and long-term health effects of early puberty.

Walvoord writes that puberty does appear to begin earlier in overweight girls than normal-weight girls, though obesity in boys may lead to a delay in the start of puberty. She found that obese girls who reach puberty early are at increased risk for diseases and conditions such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, but that these are linked to obesity, not to early puberty. In addition, children who experience puberty at an earlier age are at a higher risk for subsequent psychosocial difficulties, with girls at risk for negative body image, depression, and other mental disorders.

"As the obesity epidemic in children continues to worsen, we should not be surprised that girls will be starting puberty at earlier ages," Walvoord writes.

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