While munching down pizzas, ice cream and candy might be one of the best parts of being a kid, new research from the University suggests that eating too much might bring childhood to an early end for obese females.

Researchers at C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital found obesity is leading to an early onset of puberty in young girls, according to a report published in the March issue of the journal “Pediatrics.”

Premature puberty in girls has been linked to increased anxiety and depression, said pediatric endocrinologist Joyce Lee, who led the research at the University.

Other dangers of early puberty include teenage pregnancy, earlier initiation of alcohol use, reproductive cancers and a higher likelihood of adult obesity, the report said.

Lee said more research is needed to understand the precise relationship between obesity and early puberty.

The research team is focusing on identifying the underlying phenomenon by which obesity causes to puberty.

Until the physical relationship is fully understood, interventions for weight control will hopefully slow puberty’s onset in children and minimize health risks, Lee said.

“The impact of weight status on puberty is a question of considerable importance, given that rates of obesity among children in the United States have doubled over the last two decades,” the report said.

The study followed 354 girls randomly selected from across the United States.

The girls’ heights and weights were recorded periodically through childhood at ages 36 months, 54 months and grades one, four, five and six. The children were considered overweight if their Body Mass Index reached a score of 30 – a BMI of between 18 and 24 is considered healthy for females.

The presence of puberty was recorded at three annual laboratory visits where girls were given physical examinations in fourth through sixth grade.

The annual physicals examined the presence of puberty through different measurements of breast development and the onset of menstruation.

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