Premature puberty among girls offers new market,puzzles scientists

Knowledge
Pic Courtsey:children.webmd.com

Like the climate change is a reality,premature puberty among girls is turning out to be a new market.

In the Science News,Laura Beil says that “Kotex, the company that first capitalized on the concept of “feminine hygiene” more than 90 years ago, recently gained newfound success after it began targeting an underserved market: girls who start their periods before they start middle school.”

Though Kotex is not much known in India,it had offered “maxi pads and tampons for — OMG! — girls as young as 8, promoted through a neon-hued website with chatty girl-to-girl messages and breezy videos”in many parts of the US and Europe.

Beil writes about a below 10 girl’s experience in these words: “When I had my first period I was prepared,” reads one testimonial. “It was the summer before 4th grade….”

Beil’s article further reads as follows.

”Today it has become common for girls to enter puberty before discovering Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Over the second half of the 20th century, the average age for girls to begin breast development has dropped by a year or more in the industrialized world. And the age of first menstruation, generally around 12, has advanced by a matter of months. Hispanic and black girls may be experiencing an age shift much more pronounced.

The idea of an entire generation maturing faster once had a strong cadre of doubters. In fact, after one of the first studies to warn of earlier puberty in American girls was published in 1997, skeptics complained in the journalPediatrics that “many of us in the field of pediatric endocrinology believe that it is premature to conclude that the normal age of puberty is occurring earlier.” Today, more than 15 years later, a majority of doctors appear to have come around to the idea. Have a conversation with a pediatric endocrinologist, and it isn’t long before you hear the phrase “new normal.”

“If you basically say that the onset of puberty has a bell-shaped distribution, it seems to many of us the whole curve is shifting to the left,” says Paul Kaplowitz, chief of the division of endocrinology and diabetes at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. More girls, he says, are starting puberty before age 8, putting them at “the lower end of the new normal range.”

Researchers are now turning their attention to what could be driving the trend. Many scientists suspect that younger puberty is a consequence of an epidemic of childhood obesity, citing studies that find development closely tied to the accumulation of body fat. But there are other possibilities, including the presence of environmental chemicals that can mimic the biological properties of estrogen, and psychological and social stressors that might alter the hormonal makeup of a young body.

These possibilities could also be occurring simultaneously in ways that are not understood. A study published in September in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children with high levels of a common environmental pollutant were more likely to be obese. “Although I’m convinced that obesity is part of the story, I’m no longer convinced it’s the whole story,” Kaplowitz says.

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