Be informed parents: Too much of sugary drinks cause girls to start menstruating earlier than others of the same age. It’s proven now. The menstrual cycle is perhaps one of the most puzzling of natural occurrences. Each woman has her own intricacies and personalized version of the cycle. Following this ‘rule’, some girls start menstruating at an earlier age, while others only blossom later in life; the body of each woman has its own designed cycle. Furthermore, the environment in which she lives also has a certain effect on her menstrual cycle. A new study has revealed that the consumption of a lot of sugary drinks might be causing girls to have their first menses earlier than those girls who do not indulge in too much of the drinks.
The scientists of the study surveyed over 5 500 girls from the US aged between 9 to 14. At the beginning of the study, none of the girls had had their first periods. They were followed for five years, from 1996 to 2001. Data about the dietary habits of the girls were gleaned, including the frequency at which they would drink soda and other sugary beverages.
The results showed that those girls drinking more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks on a daily basis had their periods almost 3 months earlier than those who would consume only two or fewer of those beverages per week.
The author of the research, Karin Michels, commented on the findings: “Our study adds to increasing concern about the widespread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents in the USA and elsewhere“.
Furthermore, girls from developed countries have been observed to start their cycle at younger ages. Why this shift, if any? The reasons behind have still not been elaborated in scientific literature.
The findings were specific though: drinks with added sugar (like soda) were associated with earlier menses while those drinks without added sugar (like some fruit juices) did not generate the same effects.
The consumption of sweetened beverages have previously been linked with weight gain, a variable that has an effect on the onset of menstruation: obesity increases the risk of having the menses earlier. This study, however, showed that BMI exerted a small effect only on the association between sugary drinks and early menses. This implies that other factors must be behind the phenomenon: sugary drinks might be affecting the girls’ bodies in another way. The researchers found that food items like soda increase the blood sugar levels quickly, which in turn leads to an increase in the hormone insulin. This consequently affects the concentration of sex hormones in the blood which would impact on menstruation.
It has not been proved yet whether this association is strong enough to establish it as proof though.
Now, does having one’s menses earlier – in this case, three months earlier – affect the health of the girls? This again remains elusive.
The researchers added that having one’s menses a year earlier is linked with a 5 % increase in the risk of developing breast cancer; as such, the three-month decrease in age might have a “modest impact” on the breast cancer risk, according to them. While the results are not clear, the authors insist that the effect that sugary drinks might be having on a girl’s age when she has her first menses cannot be ignored, and the possibility that this might be exposing her to a heightened risk of breast cancer should not be overlooked either.