Vitality

Drinking Soda Starts Girls' Menstrual Period Earlier: The Science Behind Sugar's Influence

Soda Consumption In Girls
Girls who drink too much soda get their periods earlier. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

It’s well documented soda isn’t good for the body, doesn’t provide any nutrients or benefits other than a slight caffeine high and sugar buzz, but now experts have discovered a danger floating in the liquid sugar permanently changes little girls’ hormones. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health found an alarming new danger of soda consumption and published their findings in the journal Human Reproduction.

"Our study adds to increasing concern about the wide-spread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents in the USA and elsewhere," the study’s lead researcher Karin Michels, a professor at Harvard  Medical School, said in a press release. "The main concern is about childhood obesity, but our study suggests that age of first menstruation (menarche) occurred earlier, independently of body mass index, among girls with the highest consumption of drinks sweetened with added sugar. These findings are important in the context of earlier puberty onset among girls, which has been observed in developed countries and for which the reason is largely unknown."

For the first time, researchers took a closer look into the sugary liquid to figure out if it has anything to do with girls getting their periods earlier and earlier. They followed 5,583 girls between the ages of 9 to 14 throughout 1996 and 2001, and found those who drank more sugary drinks had their period earlier. Having more than one-and-a-half sugary drinks a day in the five-year time frame, the girls had their first period 2.7 months earlier than those who consumed two or less of the same drinks a week.

Usually when someone drinks a lot of soda, it accompanies an unhealthy diet, but researchers had already took into account the girls’ body mass index (BMI), height, daily calories, exercise, and other lifestyle factors, and found soda and other sugary drinks were the root cause. Consumers should be wary of substances responsible for changing a female's hormones, because of the effects it could have on their reproductive health and future children. "Our findings provide further support for public health efforts to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks," Michels said.

The rapidly falling age of puberty in girls has been a concern for over a decade, but earlier periods have been a trend for the last 50 years, according to the National Women’s Health Network. In the United States, 50 percent of Caucasian girls show signs of breast budding before they’re even 10 years old, and experts believe the chemical cocktails are to blame for the new normal rates of girls’ pubescent development.

Sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit punch, lemonade, sports and energy drinks, are all major contributors to the obesity epidemic, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. However, researchers found girls who were drinking diet sodas or fruit juices were not at risk for an earlier period. Regardless, there is a dauntingly high and continuous rise in the consumption of sugar drinks, and nearly a quarter of all girls who drink more than one soda a day will be at risk for an earlier period. On any given day in America, half of the people in the country will consume a sugary drink by the time they go to bed.

Source: Michels KB, Carwile JL, Willet WC, Spiegelman D, Hertzmark E, and Rich-Edwards J, et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and age at menarche in a prospective study of US girls. Human Reproduction. 2015.

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