Young girls who consume sugary drinks on a regular basis are more likely to begin their menstrual cycle earlier than girls who don’t, found a new study conducted by Harvard Medical School.
The researchers looked at more than 5,500 girls between the ages of 9 and 14 who had not started their menstrual cycles yet. The girls were tracked over a five-year period, with questions about their diets, including the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks. The researchers controlled for other factors that influence the onset of the menstrual cycle such as height, weight, activity levels, food consumption and ethnicity.
According to the research, girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks per day began their menstrual cycles an average of three months earlier than the girls who did not.
"Our study adds to increasing concern about the widespread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents in the USA and elsewhere," study author Karin Michels, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.
The researchers noted that the excessive sugar in sweetened beverages is associated with weight gain, which has also been connected with the early onset of menstrual cycles. But it was the rapid increase in insulin from the blood sugar spike in the drinks that the researchers think may account for the change in the girls who consumed the drinks.
While the average in the study of three months earlier onset of a girl’s menstrual cycle isn’t a significant amount of time, it is something that can impact the risk factor for the girls developing breast cancer later in life. According to the researchers, the of developing breast cancer increases by 5 percent for every one-year decrease in the onset age of the menstrual cycle. Most girls start their periods at age 12.
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