F or years, experts have suggested that we avoid sugary drinks to combat the growing obesity problem in our country, especially among children— but new research provides another reason why young girls may want to avoid sugar-filled refreshments.
Researchers found that frequent consumption of sugary drinks may cause girls to start their menstrual periods earlier—and early menarche has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
The study, which was published in Human Reproduction, followed 5,583 girls between the ages of 9 and 14 for a total of five years. Each participant filled out questionnaires at various points of the study to determine how frequently they drank different types of sugary drinks: including regular and diet soda, non-carbonated fruit drinks (like lemonade or fruit punch), and sweetened iced tea. The study found that girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings of these drinks in a day had their first period 2.7 months earlier than those who drank two or fewer per week, according to Science Daily.
The risk of breast cancer is increased by five percent when menarche occurs one year earlier, according to the study's authors. Therefore, a 2.7 month decrease in age will not have an overwhelming impact—but it is an impact nonetheless. "The average age of the first period among girls consuming the most sugary drinks was 12.8 years, compared to 13 years for those drinking the least," reports Science Daily.
The science behind all of this is that sugar's high glycemic index causes a rapid increase in insulin concentrations in the body, that increase can then cause higher concentrations of sex hormones, which has been linked to periods starting earlier.
But no need to worry! Removing soda entirely from your child's diet is not the only solution. It's important to find a balance that works for everyone—and that just might prevent binging when mom and dad aren't watching.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
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