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Monday, August 09, 2010

Blaming the fat chicks again
Posted by Jill | 6:44 AM
I used to work with someone whose daughter started menstruating at the age of eight. She told me at the time, "How do I explain to this kid what this thing that's happening to her means?"

It seems that her daughter is by no means an anomaly:
A new study finds that girls are more likely today than in the past to start developing breasts by age 7 or 8.

The research is just the latest in a flood of reports over the last decade that have led to concern and heated debate about whether girls are reaching puberty earlier, and why it might be happening.

Increased rates of obesity are thought to play a major role, because body fat can produce sex hormones. Some researchers also suspect that environmental chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen may be speeding up the clock on puberty, but that idea is unproved.

The issue is of concern for both medical and psychosocial reasons. Studies suggest that earlier puberty, as measured by the age at first menstruation, can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, probably because it results in longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can feed some tumors.

Although the new study did not look at menstrual age, breast growth is also a sign of hormone exposure, and some researchers fear that early development might also mean an increased cancer risk.

Socially and emotionally, life can be difficult for a girl who has a child’s mind in a woman’s body and is not ready to deal with sexual advances from men and boys, or cope with her own hormone-spiked emotions and sexual impulses.

“Our analysis shows clearly that the white participants entered puberty earlier than we anticipated,” said Dr. Frank M. Biro, the first author of the study and the director of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Overweight girls were more likely to have more breast development, the study showed. But Dr. Biro said he did not think weight was the whole story. He said it was possible that environmental chemicals were also playing a role, and added that he and his colleagues were now studying the girls’ hormone levels and lab tests measuring their exposures to various chemicals.

“It’s certainly throwing up a warning flag,” Dr. Biro said. “I think we need to think about the stuff we’re exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids. This is a wake-up call, and I think we need to pay attention to it.”

Dr. Catherine Gordon, a pediatric endocrinologist and specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, said that so far, most evidence showed that neither breast development nor menstrual age had changed for white girls of normal weight.

The new study included 1,239 girls ages 6 to 8 who were recruited from schools and examined at one of three sites: the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital or Kaiser Permanente Northern California/University of California, San Francisco. The group was roughly 30 percent each white, black and Hispanic, and about 5 percent Asian.

At 7 years, 10.4 percent of white, 23.4 percent of black and 14.9 percent of Hispanic girls had enough breast development to be considered at the onset of puberty.

At age 8, the figures were 18.3 percent in whites, 42.9 percent in blacks and 30.9 percent in Hispanics. The percentages for blacks and whites were even higher than those found by a 1997 study that was one of the first to suggest that puberty was occurring earlier in girls.

Here's the red flag that I see in this study: How was weight accounted for in this study? Was the weight distribution the same among these girls? Why are there no numbers indicated for the Asian girls?

There have always been overweight kids. I was a chubby kid and I started menstruating at the age of twelve, which was about average at the time. So if it's JUST about weight, why is it that chubby kids like me weren't menstruating at age eight in the late 1960's but they are now?

Given that no matter what an overweight woman goes to a doctor for, she's told to lose weight, can we really trust doctors to perform and analyze studies without weight bias? And why is it that weight is only causing early puberty NOW?

Because it's so much easier to blame Gluttonous Girls for their own early puberty and the potential health problems later on that may result from earlier pumping of estrogens into their system than to look at some of the environmental factors that corporate America is pumping into them...things like bisphenol A, which is in everything plastic with the recycling number "7" (which means it's not recyclable and ends up in landfills. BPA is in plastic food wrap, the inside of metal food cans,those ubiquitous plastic water bottles, and plastic food storage containers. Things like the chemical 4-MBC, which is found in the sunscreen that mothers now have to smear all over their kids to prevent skin cancer later on. Or bovine growth hormone, which is in American beef. Even something as seemingly benevolent as soy, which is in baby formula, mimics estrogen.

But why look at things that are profitable for the chemical and food industries as causes for girls finding themselves bleeding once a month at an age when they are simply not ready to hear what it all means, when you can simply blame them and their parents because they're fat?

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6 Comments:
Blogger PENolan said...
Testify!
I can't even start to comment because I'll get going about eating disorders, fashion magazines, the diet industry - and that skinny bitch from the PTA who was always trying to get me to go to exercise class with her.

Glad I stopped by for coffee with y'all this morning.

Blogger SeDress said...
Jill:
I read the article. I didn't see a flat out indictment of weight as the sole causative factor in early onset of puberty. Dr. Biro stresses the need for more studies on the effects of environmental chemicals.
But if the study does show that neither breast development nor menstrual age had changed for white girls of 'normal' weight, than it would be foolish to ignore that link (even if we disagree about the definition of normal weight). If toxins are stored in body fat, and we are exposed to more and more toxins every day, than it would seem possible that persons with more body fat would accumulate more stored toxins.
The big question I have, after reading this is why the rates are so much higher for black and Hispanic girls. What were the other differences, other than race, that might account for this difference?

Blogger Nan said...
No mention of overall improved nutrition? Hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment? If male sperm counts are dropping (and that's been acknowledged for many years now), and it's probably environmental, why do female reproductive issues automatically get blamed on fat? It does show just how pervasive that whole obesity epidemic nonsense has sunk into the collective consciousness -- it's become The Answer for everything.

Blogger SeDress said...
Nan:
did you read the article: specifically this section:
"But Dr. Biro said he did not think weight was the whole story. He said it was possible that environmental chemicals were also playing a role, and added that he and his colleagues were now studying the girls’ hormone levels and lab tests measuring their exposures to various chemicals.

“It’s certainly throwing up a warning flag,” Dr. Biro said. “I think we need to think about the stuff we’re exposing our bodies to and the bodies of our kids. This is a wake-up call, and I think we need to pay attention to it."

That, to me, reads as if the doctor does think environmental chemical exposure is part of the equation.
And it sounds to me as if you're willing to throw out the study simply because it mentions weight as a possible factor. Wouldn't saying "weight is never the cause of a problem" just as close minded as saying "weight is always the cause of problems"?

Blogger Nan said...
SeDress: The problem isn't the study itself, which certainly sounds as though they're considering multiple factors. The problem is the press release that stresses obesity first and most emphatically and then downplays environmental ("mostly unproved").

Anonymous mandt said...
"girls are reaching puberty earlier, and why it might be happening."---because we are returning to the neo-Middle Ages.