Thursday, 23 February 2012

Feature/Debate: Why youngsters are reaching puberty younger and younger

The scientific aspects to the “are lean-meat additives bad for people?” debate about US beef imports to Taiwan are getting politically tainted with so-called blue (KMT) and green (DPP) food science experts getting wheeled out to make their pontifications.

Although not of direct relevance to the issue of ractopamine but of chemicals in food in general, this called to mind reports last year of recent surveys finding a lowering of the age of puberty in girls, with 15 percent starting as young as seven (CBS article here). This represents a doubling of the number found in 1997, which would seem to be a super fast social change.

CBS put the causes down to “obesity” and “environmental exposures, things like BPA (Bisphenol A, a chemical used in plastic water bottles and lining of canned foods and drinks) that are ubiquitous in our environment can have hormone-like activity”.

Some have blamed hormone residues in milk and meat, particularly the artificial bovine growth hormone rBGH. But this is now less blamed, as it should be destroyed in the human digestive process.

Others (e.g. NaturalNews here) point a more direct finger. Quoting a report in “Public Health Nutrition”, it notes that “while only 35 percent of girls who ate meat four times a week or fewer had reached puberty by age 12.5, 49 percent of those who ate meat 12 times a week had done so.”

This, it suggested, was due to the higher levels of persistent organic pollutants found in animal fat, such as meat and dairy.

And this is not just a Western phenomenon. A 2011 survey in New Delhi, India, found puberty occurring in girls as young as 8 (shouldn't we call them “8-year-old women” if they have already reached puberty?) compared with a previous low of 10.

The Indian Express (full article here) did go on to blame a Western junk food diet, however.

Text © Jiyue Publications 2012

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