News article

Early puberty leads to stunting and poor health in children

Posted:  Friday, July 31, 2015

Indian children are hitting puberty at a much younger age these days which is a matter of concern as indicated by the Indian Academy of Paediatricians (IAP). An early onset of puberty and thereby development of secondary sexual characteristics may be a potential source of health problems for children in the future.

During a continuous medical education programme of the IAP Nagpur branch, a panel of doctors brought to light that children nowadays hit puberty at a very early age and develop secondary sexual characteristics when in reality they are not sufficiently mature to understand such changes.

One of the doctors opined that early puberty can be classified as a disease. It has been observed that girls experience menarche at the age of 10 years. Development of secondary sexual characteristics not only encompasses growth of pubic hair, armpit hair and menstruation but most importantly signifies the cessation of the body’s growth and development.

Thus, early puberty equals loss of many years of growth and development, resulting in growth retardation, specifically inability to attain full height. Children are also at risk of developing diseases (like autoimmune disorders) and their academic performance is likely to be hit.

Some of the causes believed to contribute to early puberty include low birth weight; improved nutrition and less struggle for survival; and hormonal imbalance due to environmental factors. For example, some food additives, mainly preservatives added to milk and soya products, up the oestrogen levels signalling the brain and in-turn the body to begin early development.

In order to tackle this problem, the doctors recommend universal screening of all newborns for thyroid imbalance. Tracking the levels of this hormone is significant as it is linked to a child’s growth and development.

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