- NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Young girls who consume diets rich in animal protein and fat
may be eating their way to an early puberty and possibly increasing their
risk for chronic disease later in life, researchers report.
- Research has shown that girls who mature physically at
a younger age may be at increased risk of breast and possibly ovarian cancer.
- ``The importance of the potential link between some of
these adolescent factors and risk of adult diseases is that they may be
modifiable...whereas other risk factors such as family history of a disease
are not amenable to intervention,'' according to Dr. Catherine S. Berkey
of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts,
- The findings, published in the September issue of the
American Journal of Epidemiology, do not suggest that parents should modify
their child's diet in order to lower the risk of disease, since young children
need adequate protein and fat for normal growth and development, the authors
- To investigate the link between diet, growth and maturity,
investigators reviewed medical and dietary data on 67 white females born
in the 1930s and 1940s.
- Girls who consumed the most animal protein at 3 to 5
years of age had their first menstrual period (menarche) earlier than girls
who consumed higher amounts of vegetable protein, the analysis reveals.
Similarly, girls with higher dietary fat intakes at 1 to 2 years old and
girls with higher animal protein intakes at 6 to 8 years old had earlier
adolescent growth spurts.
- ``These findings may have implications regarding adult
diseases whose risks are associated with adolescent growth and development
factors,'' Berkey and colleagues write.
- The authors note that earlier menarche is associated
with increased risk of breast cancer, possibly due to greater exposure
to the hormone estrogen over a lifetime. On the other hand, early menarche
is also associated with a lower risk of the brittle bone disease osteoporosis
and an increased bone mass.
- ``Current public health efforts designed to reduce intakes
of saturated fat and red meat and excess calories and to increase fruit/vegetable
intakes in children could potentially result in lower breast cancer rates,
along with other health benefits; but the risk of osteoporosis, and perhaps
of other diseases, might increase,'' the researchers conclude.
- SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2000;152:446-452.
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