The consumption of sugar-filled beverages has been linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity and type2 diabetes. A new study shines another light on the association between high-sugar drinks and young girl’s potential health problems.
Researchers found that, on average, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages started menstruation 2.7 months earlier than girls who consumed two or fewer servings of these drinks each week.
The team said their findings raise concerns because earlier menstruation has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer. They say a 1-year decrease in age at first menstruation is estimated to raise the risk of breast cancer by 5%. "Thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk."
In another study, early menstruation has also been linked to a slight increase of risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half of the US population consumes sugary drinks on any given day, including around 60% of females aged 2-19 years.
This latest study is the first to associate sugary drink consumption in girls with the age of first menstruation, or menarche.
To reach their findings, Prof. Karin Michels, associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, and her team analyzed 5,583 girls aged 9-14 years who were a part of the Growing Up Today Study, which involves 16,875 children of participants from the Nurses Health Study II.
At the beginning of the study in 1996, none of the girls had started their periods. In a follow-up in 2001, 159 girls (3% of the participants) had started menstruation.
During the 5-year study, the girls were required to complete a dietary questionnaire that revealed their consumption of sugary drinks. The drinks contained added sugars such as sucrose, glucose and corn syrup.
They were also asked how often they consumed the drinks.
The team found that at any age between 9 and 18.5 years, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks each day were approximately 24% more likely to begin menstruation in the next month than girls who drank two or fewer servings each week.
Overall, the girls who drank the most sugar-laden drinks began their periods aged 12.8 years, while those who drank the least amount began menstruation at age 13.
These results remained significant even after the researchers accounted for other factors that could influence the age of first menstruation, such as body mass index (BMI), birth weight, height physical activity, ethnicity/race, family composition and how often the girls ate dinner with their family.
The team notes sugary drinks have a higher glycemic index than naturally sweetened drinks, which can trigger a rise in insulin concentrations. An increase in insulin concentrations can lead to a rise in concentrations of sex hormones, which can cause earlier menstruation - a potential explanation for the team's findings.
While drinking too many sugary drinks may lead to early menstruation in young girls, the more pressing health problem is likely to be obesity and type2 diabetes. These are problems that can lead to more serious health issues over a child’s lifetime.
Helping children understand the health benefits of laying –off these kinds of drinks (whether regular or artificially sweetened), when they are young will make it much easier for them to resist getting hooked by the time they reach the age of puberty.
The study’s findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Source: Honor Whiteman, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288587.php