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June 2012 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / Body Image / Raising Girls / Healthy Living

Early puberty

Early puberty and hormones in our food

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According to the journal Pediatrics, 15 percent of American girls now enter puberty by age 7. For African-American girls, the percentage is 23 percent. Seven – it’s unbelievable, isn’t it? Doctors say girls are maturing faster than ever for reasons even they don’t completely understand. They are reaching puberty younger than any generation in history. Perhaps we should look at our food supply.

When most of us were growing up, our food didn’t have the amount of artificial preservatives and chemicals in it that it does today. Meat, in particular, wasn’t pumped with loads of hormones. Back when we were young, meat was expensive and families bought it less than they do today. Now, meat has not only become more affordable, it is everywhere. Typically, the cheaper versions are pumped with hormones, preservatives, and chemicals and are widely found in children’s food offerings.

Anyone who has seen Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution,” in which he breaks down exactly how the ground beef is made in school cafeterias, would be alarmed. The meat, which is usually reserved for dog food, is mixed with ammonia and chemically manufactured into what passes for edible ground beef, or in other words, “pink slime.”

Carla Hastings, a mother of three from the West Village, says she is very concerned, and ever since reading up on food and hormones, she will only buy organic meat.

“I can’t even believe, knowing what I know now, that I would allow my kids to eat fast-food hamburgers and chicken nuggets, or even that I bought any meat at the supermarket. I’m kind of horrified,” she says.

Food in general (and the synthetic material it is often made from) is also behind another theory about early puberty — the idea that girls are more overweight now than ever and it is the extra body fat that stimulates the early puberty. The statistics are startling. Overweight girls are 50 percent more likely to enter puberty early, and those considered obese have an 80 percent chance of developing breasts before their ninth birthday. In this country, nearly one third of children and teens are overweight or obese.

Yes, of course, parents need to monitor their children’s diet and health. But what is the accountability of the farmers and corporations that are intentionally creating unhealthy food for the sake of profit? The almighty dollar should never reign supreme over human health.

Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to buy organic milk and meat from cows that have been raised without antibiotics or hormones, but this is an extravagance many families cannot afford. Others are vegetarians who intentionally avoid the hormones and antibiotics found in meat.

While moms and dads ultimately select their child’s food and the accountability falls on each individual parent, the Food and Drug Administration and the beef and dairy farmers are also responsible for choosing greed over quality and money over health. At the very least, food that is processed with hormones needs to be studied significantly more, especially in light of the growing number of boys and girls reaching puberty while still young children.

Danielle Sullivan, a Brooklyn-born mom of three, is a parenting and pet writer at Babble.com. Visit her blog, Just Write Mom, or find her on Facebook or Twitter (@DanniSullWriter).

Updated 7:09 pm, October 28, 2016
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