Though researchers have not been able to pinpoint an exact answer as to why puberty is beginning earlier for a significant amount of children, many researchers suggest that the increased rates of precocious puberty are linked with the increased rates of childhood obesity. Unfortunately, the effects of precocious puberty and possibly obesity can be felt long after the end of childhood – it can affect fertility in adults.

In recent years, a lot of reports have emerged regarding the onset of early puberty in children. Defined as displaying signs of puberty before the age of 7 or 8 for girls and 9 for boys, it has been associated with increased anxiety and depression, and parents often attempt to delay the onset with hormones.

Childhood obesity has been shown to affect the kisspeptin, a neurohormone used during reproduction. Normal secretions of kisspeptin could be intercepted by endocrine signals from fat to the brain.

The researchers, Patrick Chappell and Kristen Tolson, from Oregon State University, admit that obesity is not the only culprit. Anorexia could also cause similar fertility problems. In addition, sleep disruptions during childhood could have the same result. The disruption of circadian rhythms, or the difference in your hormones between day and night, can affect the secretion of hormones, like testosterone and insulin, that would have an impact on future fertility during adulthood.

News like this is bad news for the already-declining birth rate. In many industrialized nations such as the United States and those of northern and western Europe, countries are faced with major problems as the population ages and not enough people are born to replace elderly, retired workers. Many countries worldwide, like the United States, the United Kingdom, and China, are facing increasing obesity problems as well.

Early puberty has been associated with other health problems, like adult-onset diabetes and reproductive cancer.

The study's findings were published in Frontiers in Systems and Translational Endocrinology.