TamponAccording to a report in The Times, girls are experiencing signs of puberty as early as five years old in the UK and the average age of puberty onset in girls has dropped by five years in the last century.

Research on the worrying hormonal trend shows that the average age girls start experiencing puberty is now 10 and Tabitha Randell, a consultant pediatrician at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, said she has witnessed a case where a four-year-old girl was developing body hair and body odor.

Research conducted on thousands of UK girls in 2010 found that the group was “maturing significantly earlier” than girls in previous studies. Parents and scientists are unsure about the possible causes, but it is reported that Obesity is the biggest suspect.

Stress is also considered to be an accelerator. US research has argued that prolonged stress caused by, for example family breakdown, could alter hormones in the body and speed up the process of puberty.

“The simple truth is we don’t know why it is happening,” says Professor Richard Sharpe, an expert in early puberty at the UK Medical Research Council.

“Obesity is the biggest factor that we know of. [But] there’s clearly something else. Is it environmental chemicals, is it societal stress? I would say on the evidence, environmental factors are not a major player.”

The medical community has agreed that more research is needed, but have advised parents to watch their children’s weight.

Is obesity a symptom, rather than a disease?

One thought that occurred to me while reading this is that maybe obesity is the body’s warning sign that it is diseased, rather than being the disease itself.

There have been various studies and reports that link early menarche (first menstrual period) with increased risk of breast cancer including the 1986 study by Vihko RK, Apter DL “The epidemiology and endocrinology of the menarche in relation to breast cancer”.

Perhaps the medical community should be advising parents to watch the TED talks by Jamie Oliver and Jason Vale or a documentary like Hungry For Change. Sadly, until we address our diets in the UK, all the evidence shows obesity levels (and related health issues) will continue to increase.

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