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Obesity linked to early puberty in girls

The greater a young girl’s body mass index, the earlier she may undergo puberty, according to a study led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital researchers. Previous research suggested that girls are experiencing puberty much earlier than previous generations. Puberty is considered early when it occurs in girls younger than 8 years old.

Researchers monitored the stages of puberty in more than 1,200 girls in San Francisco, New York, and Cincinnati who were aged 6 to 8 at the start of the study in 2004. They found that girls with a higher body mass index underwent puberty younger than those with a lower BMI. Black girls began puberty at a median age of about 8 years, 10 months, while white girls in the study experienced puberty at a median age of about 9 years, 8 months, earlier than in previous studies.

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Girls who experience early puberty may be a greater risk for depression, obesity, hypertension, and certain cancers. The results suggest a higher than average body mass index for a young girl may be the strongest predictor of early puberty, the researchers wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: The greater a young girl’s body mass index, the earlier she may experience puberty.

CAUTIONS: The study cannot conclude that a higher body mass index causes earlier onset of puberty.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Pediatrics, Nov. 4

Internet’s link to teen suicides explored

The Internet can either be a catalyst or a deterrent for suicide for socially isolated teens, depending on the time spent online and the types of sites they visited, the largest review of its kind found.

Researchers at Oxford University reviewed 14 studies worldwide of teens and their Internet habits and focused on teens at risk of self-harm or suicide. Five of the strongest studies found negative effects of browsing the Internet, one of which found that a majority of the participants reported learning suicide techniques online. Another found that nearly 80 percent of the teens who harmed themselves said they researched how to self-harm online.

Seven of the studies found that for some adolescents who feel socially isolated, Internet forums can serve as a good support network that may prevent self-harming behaviors, including suicide. Two of the studies were inconclusive.

The review also found that at-risk teens spent more time on the Internet than other teens. Those who went online to find out more about self-harm methods were likely to act out more violent methods that mirrored the violent images they saw on the sites.

BOTTOM LINE: The Internet may either be a catalyst or a deterrent for suicide for socially isolated teens.

CAUTIONS: The study could not definitively conclude whether the Internet overall had a positive or negative influence on teen behavior.


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