How does early puberty affect weight?
All parents know that adolescent puberty can be a complicated and difficult time for all concerned. Some adolescents reach puberty earlier than others. Researchers found that early adolescent girls are more likely to become overweight than adults.
- If the period starts early, girls are more likely to become overweight than adults.
- Early puberty is a risk factor for obesity.
- Increased body weight in adolescence increases the likelihood of developing obesity at an early age.
In their research, Imperial College London scientists found that girls are more likely to develop obesity later in life if they reach puberty early. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "International Journal of Obesity".
Early puberty increases the likelihood of being overweight
Previous studies have found a link between obesity and puberty. Obviously, a risk factor for obesity is increased body weight. Such overweight in turn arises when girls reach puberty early, the experts explain. However, the results can be affected by situation-related factors such as ethnicity, economic background, educational level and diet, making it difficult to determine whether early puberty or these other factors are the cause.
Early puberty is a risk factor for obesity in women
"Older studies have shown that there is an association, but we did not know whether early puberty caused adiposity in adulthood or was only associated with it," explains study author Dr. Dipender Gill from Imperial College London in a press release. But now the latest research clearly shows that early puberty is a risk factor for obesity, with girls who have their first period earlier are more likely to develop a higher body mass index (BMI). The current results of the study help to unravel the complex external factors and to provide an insight into an underlying causal relationship. This shows that early puberty has a significant impact on the risk of obesity in a woman.
Genetic basis determines our life
For the investigation, the research team used genetic variants as a tool to investigate the effect of the onset of puberty. The genes in every cell of our body come from our parents. The result of this random confusion is the genetic basis of the embryo, which determines factors such as hair color but also the risk of certain diseases.
122 genetic variants were associated with early puberty
Using data from 182,416 women, the scientists identified 122 genetic variants that were strongly associated with the onset of puberty, with the age of the women in the first period being determined using a questionnaire. The team then analyzed the data from the so-called UK biobank, which contains biomedical information on hundreds of thousands of people and integrates physiological measurement data with genetic sequence data and questionnaire responses. In particular, they looked for a second group of 80,465 women from the UK biobank, for whom measurements of the BMI were also available, for the effect of the genetic variants in connection with age in menarche (first menstrual period) and the BMI.
Results were checked several times
The first analysis found a link between these genetic variants and the BMI in those women who had gene variants that were associated with previous puberty and had an increased BMI. The researchers checked this relationship in a third group of 70,962 women and found the same association there.
How does early puberty affect body weight?
Doctors have carried out a series of statistical sensitivity analyzes to test the reliability of the results. The results were confirmed, which is why the experts are convinced of the results of the investigation. According to the researchers, it remains unclear how an earlier maturation directly affects body weight. Differences between physical and emotional maturity could play a role. The authors assume that the physical effects of hormonal changes during puberty, such as increased fat deposition in breast tissue, could also lead to a higher risk profile for a higher BMI or obesity in later life. (as)