Is there a connection between early puberty and consumption of meat and dairy? Recent studies seem to point in that direction. As the consumption of meat products increases in the Western diet, the average age of puberty decreases in girls. This is concerning because girls who start their periods early are at increased risk for several diseases to include heart disease, ovarian, and breast cancer.
The amount of meat consumed by Americans in the past 100 years has nearly tripled, according to an infograph in the New York Times. As well, 100 years ago the average age for a girl to start menstruation was about 14 years old. According to a study which was published in the June 10, 2010 Public Health Journal, today’s 7 year-olds who eat a little less than two portions of meat per day, have about a 50% chance of starting their periods before the age of 12½. Girls who eat only one portion of meat every other day are only 35% likely to start menarche by age 12½, according to a Bristol University study.
The reason why meat may cause early puberty is still unclear, however, some scientists believe that the hormones administered to commercial raised beef could be a causative factor. To improve growth and weight gain, combinations of estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as the synthetic hormones zeranol and trenbolone acetate are given to cattle. To increase milk production, some dairy cows are treated with the growth hormone rbGH.
It is perhaps the consumption of various residual hormones in beef, pork, chicken and dairy that could be a contributing factor to premature puberty. It is also possible that this condition is purely a result of the population tripling their animal protein consumption, despite the hormones and antibiotics. Obviously, more large scale research needs to be undertaken to understand this problem and avoid a future health crisis in women’s health.