Girls who are overweight or obese may experience puberty sooner than their thinner peers, according to a study in the August 11 online edition of Pediatrics (2005; 116 ). The study contests the theory that girls who start their periods at a young age are predisposed to be obese adults.
Researchers looked at data from the Newton Girls Study, which tracked the development of Boston-area girls over a 30-year period. Of the 448 women who participated in the adult follow-up (at a mean age of 42), 307 provided usable data. Girls who were overweight before menarche were 7.7 times more likely to be overweight as adults. Early puberty did not raise the odds. Researchers concluded that the timing of menarche is a consequence of, rather than a risk factor for, being overweight. Therefore, the intervention focus should be on helping overweight girls lose weight before puberty.