There’s been a noticeable increase in precocious puberty since the early 1990s, causing a decades-long concern in the parents of daughters who are pointing an accusatory finger at the hormone-treated dairy products we consume every day. The idea that while trying to nourish our children, we could actually be introducing their systems to a hormone that could be speeding up the natural progression of puberty is alarming, to say the least, but can blame be placed entirely on milk as the masses have suspected, or is there another underlying factor that has gone unnoticed over the years?
In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the recombinant bovine growth hormone in the treatment of America’s dairy farms, specifically cows, in order to increase the production of milk to meet industry needs. It’s worth noting that the use of the hormone is not permitted in the European Union, Canada, and some other countries.
It was then that a rise in early puberty (around the age of 8) among girls began to systematically increase, which sent parents into a frenzy, accusing the Food and Drug Administration of turning a blind eye to the introduction of a hormone, that was in fact, speeding up and altering the natural progression of the endocrine system within female children nationwide.
To understand the possible effects of the hormone, we have to try first to understand how the endocrine system works, on at least an elementary level.
The endocrine system consists of glands and the hormones produced by them, that are purposefully released into the bloodstream. Various organs recognize and respond to hormones, whether naturally occurring or introduced to our system by other means, hence bringing on puberty—more specifically the issue at hand, menstruation at ages far younger than the typical pubescent age of 12.
The median age of girls experiencing precocious puberty has lowered from age 12 to age 8 over the last twenty years, and the link between our meats and dairy have come into the spotlight as the main culprit. As a result, the organic, non-GMO, no-antibiotic or added hormone industry of meats, dairy and produce have increased in sales by 8.4% in the last year alone, as parents and a wide demographic of individuals have started paying more attention to the additives in their food, and the effects of such.
Hormones and additives aside, various studies have linked obesity as an underlying result of precocious puberty, rather than the bovine growth hormone as the one solely to blame, and here’s why.
According to a study reported on livescience.com, the artificial bovine growth hormone is a protein hormone, not a steroid hormone like estrogen, which means it can be destroyed through the process of human digestion. Therefore, the theory that the actual bovine hormone is the solitary cause of precocious puberty can be debunked. Further reason to believe the hormone is not to blame, is the issue of childhood obesity, caused by an increasing number of processed foods, fast foods and a lack of fresh, raw, healthy meal choices being served to children. With fast food so accessible and affordable, it’s no wonder that childhood obesity rates have soared. The link from processed foods leading to obesity, and then to early puberty is very strong.
Kirsten Krahnstoever Davison of Penn State University has conducted serval studies documenting the progression of early puberty. She’s found that over 50 percent of girls that are found to be overweight, enter puberty earlier. Similarly, she’s also conducted studies on young girls adopted from developing countries, that are suddenly introduced to high-fat diets, and as a result, enter puberty early. Strengthening the fat cell connection to precocious puberty.
Our bodies are triggered to enter puberty by a few factors. Genetics certainly play a part, but to enter puberty, the body needs to have a specific weight and fat distribution. Children with lower fat diets, or those that are extremely athletic, like gymnasts for example, typically enter puberty at a later age.
Enter the high-fat diet. Children tipping the scales over the average of their age groups will be more likely to enter puberty earlier as a result. Why? Because leptin, a protein that is connected to higher fat consumption, can trigger the release of three integral hormones through glands, all of which are responsible for starting puberty.
So, what can be done?
Purchasing organic non-GMO foods and hormone-free, antibiotic free milk varieties certainly can’t hurt, in fact, many stand by it as a requirement in nutritional health. However, serving our children a balanced diet, setting aside convenience and taking time to focus on natural, raw, and healthy vitamin-rich meals, is non-negotiable. If we focus on limiting our children’s consumption of high-calorie, nutritionally empty foods, we can likely avoid risks of unnecessary weight gain and protect our children against precocious puberty, keeping them children for as long as they naturally should be.
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