The Role Of Diet In Puberty And Growth Rates




Did you happen to read the article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal addressing how girls are hitting puberty at much younger ages than ever before? If you didn’t happen to catch it, I encourage you to track it down. It is a great example of how today’s modern society – and diet – is dramatically impacting growth and development.

In the article, new research is shared that provides even further evidence that girls are entering puberty at younger and younger ages. But, what does this mean to their health? Actually, a lot. You see, there is lots of research that demonstrates that a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer is directly related to the amount of estrogen in her body. If a young woman (a girl, actually) begins menstruating at a young age, this has a strong influence on her risk of developing breast cancer in her later years. Technically, puberty begins when the young girl notes breast development. Normally just a couple years later, she begins menstruating. So, starting puberty at ever younger years is actually a trend that is not welcome at all.

The research also demonstrated differences by race. Here are the facts:

  • 10% of White 7-year-olds already began puberty
  • 15% of Hispanic 7-year-olds already began puberty
  • 23% of Black 7-t=year-olds already began puberty

Interestingly, although not surprisingly, the trend is strongest in Western countries. While the article does acknowledge that body weight and obesity rates are likely to be associated with this trend, it does not explore further the critical role of diet and food consumption in this phenomenon. Surely, obesity does speed up the rate of puberty. However, it is also well documented – from other studies – that meat consumption plays a strong role in increasing estrogen in a young girl’s body. The meat-focused diet that comprises the Western diet has much to do with this early-puberty phenomenon.

To illustrate this relationship of meat-centered diet and early puberty, all you need to do is look at the young girls in Japan, China, Taiwan, and other countries who typically follow a primarily plant-based diet. The young girls definitely do not develop breasts at the same ages as their western counterparts.

In fact, as I was watching the girls softball championships last week — I was struck how the Japanese team were all lean, flat-chested, and actually looked very much like a boy’s physique. Their opponents, the Americans, all had young women who had women shapes, well-developed breasts, and not a single one resembled a boy’s physique. Watching that softball game was a tremendous reminder to me about the powerful role of diet in our body development!

So, clearly our choice to eat a primarily meat-based diet or a plant-based diet has significant repercussions not only on our rate of physical maturity, but also our risk of cancers as we get older. Yet another reason to seriously consider transitioning to a plant-based diet!

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