Weight and Early Puberty in Girls

by Annie on January 4, 2009 · 2 comments

in Aging & Gender Differences,Hormones & Fat Cells,Weight Loss & Body Image

It is common knowledge that we are getting fatter as a nation. It has long been known that overweight girls tend to mature earlier than thinner girls. But why is that the case? The answer might be in our fat cells.

Excessive fat cells triggers early puberty in girls

Most people think that the only function of fat cells is to store fat in our bodies. But what they do not know is that that our fat cells produce hormones that can act as triggers for the different stages in our life such as puberty or menopause.

Leptin is a protein produce by our fat cells. Leptin controls our appetite and body composition. Increasing leptin levels are a trigger for the production of estrogen in girls. A crucial level of leptin is needed for puberty to start and progress. The more fat cells overweight girls have result in more leptin, hence the higher the chances of early puberty.

This is no surprise to me. As stated in my earlier posts on fat cells in women, adequate stores of fat are needed to ensure a healthy pregnancy. From an evolutionary standpoint, there is no reason to have the ability to get pregnant if she does not have enough stored fat to carry a pregnancy to term. And if a girl has enough stored fat to carry a pregnancy to term, earlier puberty increases her chances of having more children in her youth (ensuring healthy babies).

Then how come fat cells do not seem to have the same impact in boys?

Excessive fat cells in boys have the exact opposite effect than girls. That is right – being overweight tend to delay puberty in boys. Leptin levels actual decrease during puberty for boys to about 1/3 of the level in girls. Therefore, being overweight means more a higher leptin level that counteracts the natural decrease of leptin level in puberty for boys.

In addition, fat cells lower testosterone production in boys and men. Check out my post on men’s fat cells and testosterone for more information.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

Photo by:  hyperscholar.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

The Passive Dad January 12, 2009 at 12:01 am

Yet another reason to teach healthy eating habits to our young children. Interesting about the effect of fat cells on boys vs. girls. My daughter starts Kindergarten next year and I’m looking forward to seeing what the cafeteria sells for food. It’s scary as I haven’t seen a cafeteria in over 20 years.

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asithi January 12, 2009 at 8:55 am

@The Passive Dad – There are federal requirements in place for school lunches. But the the requirements do not need to be met on a daily basis. As long as their weekly average meets the requirement, then it is okay. That is why some days, you would find pizza, mac and cheese, and tater tots on the menu (all high fat and cheap).

My post on “Food Advertising in Schools Contributes to Child Obesity” might be of interest to you:

http://smallstepstohealth.com/2008/12/food-advertising-in-schools-contributes-to-child-obesity/

Thanks for your comment.

asithis last blog post……Weight and Early Puberty in Girls

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