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Sugary Beverages and Girls’ Puberty

Sugary beverages may cause girls to get their periods at younger ages.

New research from Karin Michels, at Harvard University, and her colleagues provides confirmatory evidence that sugar intake is linked to girls’ timing of menarche (or first period).

Michels and her team followed more than 5,000 girls since 1996 and found that those who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages were at increased risk for getting their periods earlier compared to their counterparts who consumed fewer sugary drinks. The researchers suggest that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may be associated with metabolic changes that could impact pubertal timing. While higher body mass index (or BMI) was assumed to be on the causal pathway from sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to menarche, the researchers also adjusted for BMI and found that the results, while somewhat diminished, were still significant suggesting that sugar may play an important role in timing of menarche independent of BMI.

As clinicians, we have been recommending for years that our patients and their families cut down on sugary beverage consumption, which includes everything from soda to fruit beverages. This new research confirms the importance of this recommendation. Water remains the best option when kids are thirsty.