Last night, I had "the talk," with my eldest daughter. Not the sex talk; that one was easy. This was the puberty talk explaining to her all of the changes that her body will start going through soon. It went well but it was heartbreaking to me to have this conversation with my daughter because I couldn't fight the feeling that it was too much information too soon.
My daughter is only nine years old. Already, there is at least one girl in her class who has begun puberty. While that may seem young, early puberty is becoming more and more common. And a new study has found that a diet high in calories may just be the cause.
According to the study, published in the journal Endocrinology, it's not that girls weigh significantly more when they reach puberty. Rather, they hit a weight associated with the start of puberty at an earlier age.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted the study on primates and found that the monkeys in the study who consume more calories also tended to reach puberty earlier. Their study found that the monkeys reached puberty six months to a year earlier than a control group of monkeys the same age that consumed 33% fewer calories. The faster-maturing monkeys were not obese, but their bones and muscles grew faster and larger. They were growing - and growing up - more quickly.
Environmental pollutants, eating habits, lack of exercise and genetics have all been considered as possible causes of the early onset of puberty in humans. But this study leads strong credence that it a young girl's diet that may have a significant effect.
As for my daughter, she's got a grasp of the facts now - at least as best as she can at only nine years old. So at least now she'll understand what all of those whispers are about on the playground. But hopefully she'll have many, many years before she needs to put this information to use.