Social Question

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Do you think all the hormones in our food these days contributes to girls starting their periods at an earlier age?

Asked by WillWorkForChocolate (22623 points ) July 28th, 2011

When I was a child, most girls were starting their periods at about 12–14. Many of my 10 year old daughter’s friends are starting their periods around 10 or 11. She’ll be leaving a “care package” in the nurses office this next school year just in case, as a couple of her friends were caught off guard this past year and had a horribly embarassing moment.

I was just thinking about how much our food has changed, and how many hormones are in our food these days. Do you think that has anything to do with periods starting earlier?

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43 Answers

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

I believe that the hormones are definitely an influence. I was working in elementary schools for a while and junior highs. The kids when I went to school were not as physically developed as the kids nowadays.
Jr. high kids look like they should be going in to college.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Diet has some affect as well. Greater the nutrition faster the development. But I am concerned about the amount of hormones and stuff kids are exposed to.

intrepidium's avatar

I recall there was some discussion in women’s magazines a couple of years back about how hair products might have the same effect e.g. hair straighteners, smoothers etc.

As for hormones, I’m inclined to believe they may have at least some part to play along with other factors such as our water supply and the environment (pollution or contamination).

While we’re talking about girls here, I wonder what effects there are on boys? I have not heard or seen as much about that…

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@intrepidium Well, I’ve seen a lot more little boys with “boobs” and I think a lot of that has to do with the hormones as well.

tedd's avatar

There has been a lot of speculation (I dunno if any research has been done to support it though) that the hormones we put in cows to make them lactate 100% of the time is contributing to a spike in breast size and how early breasts develop now.

So it wouldn’t shock me if it would effect menstruation as well.

marinelife's avatar

I started my period at nine. It was a long time ago.

I think you need more evidence than anecdotal.

syz's avatar

There’s a good bit of research showing that hormone mimicking chemicals in plastic packaging act as functional estrogens and may be contributing to earlier onset of puberty in girls (which has also been fairly well established by research). I suspect we’ll find out eventually that we’ve been screwing ourselves over for some time now, in innumerable ways.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, I believe it has caused early onset puberty, and other anomalies. The one I worry about the most and do my best to avoid is rBGH, genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone.

rBGH has been found to encourage growth of tumors and cancer cells.

the100thmonkey's avatar

“I believe” has no relevance here; this is an empirical question.

YoBob's avatar

My wife, being a teacher, asked our doctor about this. According to him, this phenomenon is a result of generally better nutrition (or at least more overall calorie input) rather than hormone supplements given to livestock.

As for little boys with boobs, I respectfully submit that this has a whole lot more to do with over indulgence in cheesy poofs and Nintendo addiction than with hormonal imbalance.

tedd's avatar

@YoBob I could believe that to be a contributing factor as well. Though I wouldn’t think that that being true discounts hormones necessarily.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’m with @marinelife and @the100thmonkey on this.

If it is true, and I’m not saying that it isn’t, then I would like to see the results of a more global study that includes hereditary factors, diet, and living conditions.

zenvelo's avatar

@the100thmonkey Okay, ‘I think…” ( in direct response to the question).

rBGH does encourage growth in cancer cells, to me it means there is a strong likelihood it encourages other growth in human cells.

Overall jumps in growth were demonstrated in post-war Japan by the huge increase in protein consumed by children compared to pre-war child consumption. But the change in puberty onset in the US has been attributed to hormones in food.

Like a lot of things, why risk it if you don’t have to?

tom_g's avatar

I haven’t read the scientific literature, but I keep hearing about obesity’s potential impact on early puberty. Since childhood obesity is increasing, could we be seeing a side-effect here?

Also, while I am not claiming anything about age and puberty, I think we need to make sure we’re not talking about certain school grades (someone mentioned it above). Redshirting is much more prevalent, so we may be talking about inaccurate age comparisons over time despite looking at the same grade.

josie's avatar

I doubt it. But I am sure it has a lot to do with dietary fat.

christine215's avatar

from what I can tell, there’s been no scientific evidence to connect the hormones in food to earlier onset of puberty in kids lately..that being said, years ago I made a decision to change the way I feed my family. We buy food locally, from farmers who adhere to certified naturally grown standars or organic standards (“organic is expensive and many small farmers can’t afford to be certified)
I buy meat, milk and eggs from local farmers who dont’ use antibiotics or hormones,
The foods I can’t source locally I buy certified organic at the health food store or Whole foods market… I’ve tossed out all plastic containers from the house.
why? because there is anecdotal evidence that all these things could possibly contribute to not only early onset puberty but a whole host of other health problems and I want the best for my family
(and no, it doesn’t really Cost that much more, when you cut out what you’re spending on processed food and eat less meat, it pretty much balances itself out)

geeky_mama's avatar

Even if it’s anecdotal, I can’t help but notice that my daughter is developing a LOT more rapidly than I did. She’s 10 and going into 5th grade this year and is, in appearance and physical (puberty) development where I was at age 14…perhaps 15.
Comparing notes with other mom’s – we’re all seeing the exact same thing in our 10–12 year old daughters…all seem to be at least 2 to 4 years “ahead” of the development and it alarms all the moms I know.
Granted, it’s not a scientific survey—but out of at least 25 mom’s I’ve talked to with daughters at this age, 100% of us have noticed this enough to be concerned.

(I have a Girl Scout troop composed of 14 girls – primarily 10 year olds. All 14 girls are now in need of a bra—and have developed in a way that I was not developed until High School / age 14 or 15.)

There is not a significant change in diet between my daughter’s upbringing and mine—in fact, I cook almost the identical meals I was served in my childhood for her. She isn’t overweight at all – she plays outside, rides her bike, reads her books-just like I did at her age.

So, removing obesity (none of the girls in my troop, or tween daughters of friends I’ve talked to are overweight), and removing “improvements” to diet…
Why the early onset puberty? Why is she so much more developed than I was at her age?

I’m not sure if it’s hormones in the milk and meats we eat or something else..but my personal experience alone tells me that something is affecting these girls. I truly do believe we’re seeing an earlier onset of puberty.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Kids are much bigger as well. When I went to school 200 pounds was a big kid. The line on our football team had one guy over 200 pounds. Now that’s way too small. It’s not unusual to see 250 to 300 pounds.

sophiesword's avatar

I started at the age of 11. I don’t think foods contain hormones, but one thing I do know is that spices really speed up the puberty process for girls.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@zenvelo – “I think” is often a cognate for “I believe”.

The point I was making was that without rigorous, evidence-based study, we could all be “risking it without having to” by spending more money on supposedly “safer” foods where that benefit might just be imaginary.

This is an empirical question – Do the hormones in our food (if, indeed there actually are any at all – this needs a source) contribute to the earlier onset of puberty in the population?

I would be inclined, personally speaking, to favour the null hypothesis until it has been demonstrated that the inverse is the case. It would also be necessary to establish why such a phenomenon is important before I would really be moved to care about it.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Hormones in Food? Most Likely Yes.

Chemicals in cleaning products? Yes.

Chemicals in food packaging? Yes.

There are many factors. IMO, when scientists figure out what hormones are causing early puberty, they will most likely also find a key to unlocking why so many children are becoming obese at such an alarming rate.

JLeslie's avatar

I tend to think it is a combination of things. I lean towards girls being heavier as a very big influence on early onset puberty, although @geeky_mama‘s observations are very interesting. I have wondered if there is more animal protein and protien in general being consumed? I also think plastics and other chemicals are affecting our girls and boys.

The ethnicities in America who get their periods at a younger age tend to weigh more and are more likely to be lower on the socio-economic scale.

There was a study done of menopausal women to try and prove that eating more soy, which converts to estrogen or something like that, actually helps women with their undesireable menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. The study showed the soy did nothing. The only reason I bring it up, is it is still commonly believed soy affects hormones. It’s hard to know what is really the truth with all these theories. Better studies needs to be done probably.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@sophiesword You don’t think foods contain hormones? Umm, I hate to break this to you, but there are hormones in store-bought milk and meat.

@geeky_mama I’m 100% with you! My daughter God love her, I’m getting personal, so nobody shout this on facebook, lol started developing breasts a little over a year ago, when she was still 8. She’s only 10, and without trying to get extremely personal here, she is already in possession of an entire “forest” where there should only be a couple of twigs. Next year, she’ll have to shave her bikini line before she can put on a swimsuit.

This bothers me. I didn’t grow a jungle until I was about 13. She’s had hers since she was 9. 10 years old, and I have to make sure she’s wearing a bra before we leave the house. Most of her friends are pretty much at the same developmental stage. They’re about 2–3 years ahead of where I and my friends were years ago.

She’s a typical 10 year old, though, and isn’t obese. She does enjoy her PS3, but she also takes gymnastics classes, rides her bike all over the neighborhood and runs around like crazy in the backyard. She, and most of her friends just seem to be developing much more quickly than they should. I don’t need scientific evidence to show me something’s going on.

tom_g's avatar

9? 10? Suddenly realized that this thread is scaring the crap out of me. My baby girl is almost 9. I thought I had at least a couple more years before the dreaded teens and all that. What the hell? I really hope she doesn’t start hating us when all of this happens. I was not very parent-friendly when I was going through puberty (not sure if it’s the same with girls).
Going to go browse some old photos for awhile and sob….Seriously time – slow the f*ck down!

SpatzieLover's avatar

@tom_g The not being parent friendly does happen a bit earlier now, too. But you should still have a couple of years. It’s now between 11–13 that the attitude sets in

JLeslie's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate @geeky_mama And for sure the girls are the same weight as when you were young? You have looked at photos, not just going on memory?

christine215's avatar

I find it interesting that on average Americans spend less money on more food than any other country, and yet we have this obesity problem. (less than 10% of our disposable income goes towards food)
Corporations like Monsanto are creating genetically engineered crops and making it illegal for farmers to seed gather and replant… why? Because whoever controls the food supply controls the country.
Is the food ‘cheaper’ for the end user? Well, at the grocery store it is, but at what cost in the long run with the potential long-term health problems?

Their power is far reaching and they’ve been able to quash real scientific information regarding studies done on their GMO corn and soy.
http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm
(I know it’s old and has probably been trotted out here before, but I thought it was worth citing)

What big Ag is doing is creating food that is less and less nutritious, even at it’s’ most “natural” state.

I am willing to spend a little more on food, to avoid eating and feeding my family GMO products, products and bi-products of animals which have been treated with hormones and/or antibiotics, and processed food to avoid the possible risk of these health issues. It is the health of my family that concerns me first and foremost. So anecdotal evidence is enough for me in THIS case.

JLeslie's avatar

@christine215 I’m not sure exactly how to interpret that statistic that we spend less on food than other countries as a percentage of our income. I also worry our crops are less nutritious. But, the numbers you cite, part of it might have to do with Americans make a very good wage compared to most of the world. Also, our government subsidizes many farms.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t have time to find the stats right now, but as far as I know @christine215 is very correct. Americans spend more money on “healthcare” than they do food. Instead of clean living, we expect our doctors to fix us once we’ve broken ourselves from poor diet and a lack of exercise

tom_g's avatar

re: Americans spending less money on food…Food is advertised in terms of value. All you can eat, value meals, buy one sandwich get side for free, etc. People talk about Whole Foods in terms of its prices (“Its soooo expensive!”). People brag about getting “good” deals on meals, free breadsticks, and huge portion sizes. It’s an entire culture that doesn’t even know what food is.
The whole thing makes me sick. I’m not surprised to see people in my family overweight and on insulin.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g I have to agree with that.

But my questioning of the stats @christine215 provided is are we spending less on food, or is it simply a smaller percentage of our incomes? Our incomes are very high. Let’s say a salad costs $10 in America, and $10 in Mexico and $10 in India. America is paying the lowest amount as a percentage of income, even the salads cost the same.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie I’m leaving for a bit but here’s one article/video I quickly found one the percentage of income Americans spend on food.

christine215's avatar

Hi, sorry, I didn’t mean to abandon the conversation.

It was a Huffington Post article that I read, which also cited that we spend less percentage wise now on food than we did back in the 40’s
Here’s the Huff Post article
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/08/how-much-do-americans-spe_n_414700.html

Here is another which gives a graphic and a clearer explanation:
http://civileats.com/2011/03/29/mapping-global-food-spending-infographic/

zenvelo's avatar

@the100thmonkey Okay, I cede the point about my opinion or evaluation of the appearances does not carry any weight with respect to a controlled biological study.

However, rBGH has been shown to encourage the growth of cancer cells, and I would be cautious in consuming it for fear that it has been allowed into the food supply without appropriate understanding of its effects on other cells. When I see rBGH milk at about the same price as non-rBGH milk, I’ll skip the hormones, thank you.

creative1's avatar

Yes Yes and Yes its also giving our children a higher risk at breast cancer if you hadn’t noticed children are developing more so now than before which all can be contributed to the hormones in our milk and food. This is why my daughters only drink either almond milk or organic milk to not give them that much exposure to the hormones. I read a study on this topic and it made me really think about this subject and what I can do to prevent them from being one of the children at the higher risks.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@JLeslie If anything, my daughter is thinner than some of the girls I went to school with. She takes after me and is a skinny mini. None of her friends that are rapidly developing and getting their periods are overweight at all. They’re all slender.

filmfann's avatar

A friend of mine gave birth to a daughter, and at that moment the baby was menstruating. My friend was quite upset, and the doctor told her it was not uncommon anymore, and that it was due to all the hormones put in meat and dairy producers. The child’s cycle stopped, and was normal thereafter.
Yes, that is scary shit.

tranquilsea's avatar

With all I’ve heard about early development I was sure that my daughter would develop early but she didn’t. She actually developed later than I did.

Trying to pull apart just why this trend is happening is hard given all the variables involved.

JLeslie's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Very interesting. And, you know there has been research done about how certain chemicals in plastics inhibit testosterone, and the babies of mothers with high levels have a much increased chance of having small penises and testes that are not dropped or something like that. I would have to look it up. And, someone very close to me, a man, was diagnosed with very low testosterone, so he cut out using plastic containers for his lunches and a year later his testosterone is about 25% increased. No way to be sure it was the plastic, but you never know. Plus the occurance of thyroid trouble is just outrageous these days. I think some of it has to do with a lack of iodine in people’s diet, which the medical community is not acknowledging, but they also are not testing it from what I can tell. But, I also think chemicals, and radiation, and who knows what else is affecting those hormones too. Maybe hormones in the food has an affect.

I need to move to a farm and get off the grid.

tranquilsea's avatar

@JLeslie I need to move to a farm and get off the grid.

As long as the farmers around you aren’t pouring pesticides all over their fields. I’ve often wondered if you really are surrounded by healthier living conditions living rural. I guess it depends on where you are.

christine215's avatar

@filmfann , it is not uncommon for female newborns to have some bleeding. It is from the hormones they’re exposed to in utero.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@SpatzieLover – which hormones? The site you linked to just says “hormones”. Insulin is a hormone, serotonin and dopamine are hormones. Be specific.

@zenvelo – fair enough, but you are refusing rBGH milk for a reason totally unrelated to this thread.

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