According to new research, girls who frequently consume sugary drinks tend to start their menstrual periods and puberty earlier than girls who do not.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School studied the relation between sugary drinks and the age at which girls first start menstruating.
They observed 5,583 girls, aged 9-14 years, between 1996 and 2001 and found that those who consumed over 1.5 servings of sugary drinks a day had their first period 2.7 months earlier than those who consumed two or fewer sugary drinks a week. The typical first menarche age for girls consuming the most sugary drinks was 12.8 years in comparison with 13 years for those girls consuming the least.
Karin Michels, the associate professor who led the research, said: “The main concern is about childhood obesity but our study suggests that age of firstmenstruation occurred earlier, independently of body mass index, among girls with the highest consumption of drinks sweetened with added sugar.”
One serving of sugary drink was defined as either a can or one glass. Sugary drinks included beverages such as Coca Cola and Pepsi, sugary sodas, fruit drinks, lemonade, and iced tea.
Drinks with added sugar are high on the glycemic index, which indicates the food’s effect on your blood glucose. High-glycemic foods cause a rapid spike in insulin concentrations in the body.
Greater insulin concentrations can lead to higher concentrations of sex hormones and major alterations in the concentrations of these hormones in the body has been linked to periods starting earlier.
These findings are helpful not only because of the rapidly increasing cases of childhood obesity in many developed countries, but also because early menstruation is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer later in life.
High caffeine consumption has also been linked to earlier periods.
“Our findings provide further support for public health efforts to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks,” Michels added.
The research was published online in the journal Human Reproduction.