Smita Sharma, a mother of two, shares her worries when she got to know that her daughter had her first period at the age of 9. “It’s like the body is growing while the brain is still busy playing with Barbies. I wonder if someone has done something to my daughter”.
She is also terrified that her son might meet the same fate at such a young age. The sudden surge of hormones will surely make an impact on the “budding” mind.
The world has been witnessing such trends for past three decades. While in the 1990s the average age of onset of puberty was 16 years in girls which has gradually decreased to 9 years today. An early puberty is clinically known as Precocious Puberty.
Why should a parent worry about Precocious Puberty?
The reason for concern for an early shift of menarche is because of the difficulty a child faces while making the transition to their adulthood. This is because, at such an early age, the child is not yet ready for an immediate surge and the consequent stress associated with it.
What are the reasons for an early onset of puberty?
1. Sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle has been identified as the prime reasons. Common chemicals like DDT and BPA, have been found to be increasingly available in our food items and containers. Our dependency on such chemicals has brought these acute results to our succeeding generations.
2. Further, increasing stress levels even at a younger age is one of the major culprits.
3. Vitamin D deficiency
4. Hormone-disrupting chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, BPA and phthalates
6. Increased intake of canned and tinned foods.
However, the most common misconception prevalent since the past decade is the consumption of milk and other dairy products, owing to the presence of hormones like oxytocin and bovine growth hormone.
So is Milk the real culprit?
There are few arguments that stand contradictory to the accusation such as:
1. Milk tends to lower the body weight, instead of increasing it, thereby, negating any chances of causing obesity in a person.
2. The precocious puberty has been on the rise at exactly the same time when the per capita consumption of milk started declining. Therefore, there arises no question that its consumption is a prime reason for an early onset of puberty.
3. Hormones found in milk are protein in nature and gets easily digested while passing through the gut. Thus, it cannot be available as a gross element to cause any sexual development in the body.
4. Further, the hormones in milk like bovine growth hormone and oxytocin get denatured (lose its potency) while undergoing pasteurization, thus losing its viability.
Milk is a compelling source of calcium and other minerals. It is highly recommended to incorporate milk into the diet according to the Dietary Guidelines, especially for the pre-teens and adolescents, owing to its easy absorption in the body and adequate amounts of calcium in it.
So next time if anyone tries to point out the demerits of milk you know exactly what to say!