Thursday, November 1, 2012

The little girls who reach puberty as young as six: Could junk food, plastic packaging and computer screens be to blame?

With her hair in bunches, Atlanta Carson looks like any other happy-go-lucky eight-year-old posing for her school picture. But behind the gap-toothed smile, there is much more on the mind of this year three pupil than play-dates and skipping games. When this photograph was taken, Atlanta was already experiencing the first signs of becoming a woman, with hair starting to grow underneath her arms. At a time when most little girls are used to cuddling up with their mothers, Atlanta sought hugs for another reason: she was suffering pre-menstrual tension, headaches and cramps. Her mother Emma, 32, from Stockport, says: ‘Atlanta was just eight when I was giving her a bath one night and noticed a few pubic hairs. A few months after this picture was taken, she had her first period. ‘But of course, at that age, she was nowhere near emotionally ready. When she first saw the blood, she thought she’d had a horrible accident. She’d say: “I don’t like it, Mum. When’s it going to stop?” It broke my heart to see my daughter’s childhood snatched away from her like that.’ But when Emma consulted her GP, she was shocked to be told that Atlanta’s hormones causing the changes in her body were considered to be in the normal range for a child her age. Studies across the world show the age that girls are physically maturing is falling all the time. Now doctors are revising their opinions of what is ‘normal’. And a startling number of children in Britain are beginning puberty at a shockingly early age. Many parents are stunned when they learn that, according to official NHS advice, early — or precocious — puberty is only diagnosed if breast or pubic hair growth ‘starts before the age of six to eight’. So what is causing this disturbing phenomenon? Doctors are unable to fully explain it — but one theory is that exposure to chemicals in the environment, processed foods and plastics that mimic the effects of hormones are triggering maturity sooner. Other studies have linked it to the fact that girls are generally gaining weight earlier in life thanks to better nutrition — while other studies have found a link to exposure to artificial light from TV and computer screens. More... Women become good cooks at the age of 55 - that is when they can cook a roast, rescue a meal... and FINALLY boil an egg Dressing your newborn as a pumpkin this Halloween? Children's charity warns against celebrity copycat parents 'objectifying' babies in outlandish fancy dress costumes Every decade, according to German researchers, the average age for the onset of puberty falls by four to five months. So girls who appear to be growing up faster than ever actually are. In girls, breast development is generally the first sign of adolescence. The most comprehensive U.S. research suggests this starts aged seven for 10 per cent of white girls, and 23 per cent of black girls — 15 years ago the percentages were half that. Studies show that black girls go into puberty so consistently earlier than white girls (regardless of weight or size) that researchers believe it is mainly down to genetic differences between the races — ie. the gene that triggers puberty is activated earlier in black children. A further study, published this month, shows precocious puberty is also affecting boys. It found it starts two years earlier than previously expected — at an average age of nine for black boys, and ten for white. Yet it seems parents — as well as primary schools — are finding it hard to adapt to the changes. Read More

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