With the obesity rate higher than it has ever been
, and children growing up in an increasingly unhealthy world, studies are beginning to look at the effects our passed-down habits are having on the next generation. And whether you’re a boy or a girl, puberty and obesity seem to cause a problematic mix.
Even if those problems are vastly different.Puberty and Adolescent Girls: “The Perfect Storm”
Some would say that obesity is the most serious long-term health risk that is facing our children, with early weight gain leading to a host of issues like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart problems, and even cancer. One study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
in June, 2008, also links the weight of our nation with early puberty
“One of the first potential health effects of abnormal weight gain during this period is earlier puberty, usually manifested as thelarche,” the abstract points out. Thelarche involves the beginning of puberty in girls, specifically the onset of secondary breast development. “Leptin activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, combined with insulin resistance, and increased adiposity may result in the higher estrogen levels that are linked to breast development.”
What makes matters worse is the onslaught of bad health habits in young adolescents. It’s even been dubbed, “The Perfect Storm.”
Puberty-aged boys and girls usually experience a sharp decline in their physical activity and nutritional habits, with other psychosocial and developmental risk factors thrown in. This brewing of possibility may contribute to obesity and estrogen-dependent disease in later life; things like ovarian cysts and breast cancer. And the very same reasons that adolescents experience weight gain make prevention and treatment particularly challenging.
The only hope is to reach them before it becomes an issue, intervening prior to the onset of puberty.Boys Are the Opposite?
If early puberty is an issue for overweight girls, you would think the same would hold true for boys with the same affliction. It turns out, however, that obese boys in the U.S. may actually begin puberty later than their thinner counterparts.
At 11.5 years of age, boys with the highest body mass index (BMI) were 165 percent more likely to be pre-pubertal than the thinnest boys, researchers reported in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
. While much of the focus has been on the female issue, this was the first major study into males of the same age.
So what does that mean for either gender as they grow up in our rapidly changing world? Well, first, it means that a healthy diet must become a habit
before they begin puberty. It also means there’s more to learn across the board.
But most importantly, it should mean that our choices are now having a deadly serious impact on the future. It’s time to make those choices count.Cited Sources
Jasik, C. B. and Lustig, R. H. (2008), Adolescent Obesity and Puberty: The “Perfect Storm”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
, 1135: 265–279. doi: 10.1196/annals.1429.009
Lee, Joyce M. (2010) "BMI and Timing of Pubertal Initiation in Boys." JAMA Network: Archives
. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.