Preteens and Puberty at Seven is a Reality

By Martin Brown

There are many canaries in the coal mine of America’s obesity epidemic.

One that is far too often ignored is the rapidly declining age among girls of menarche (first menstruation.)

USA Today did a week-long series of articles they called “Saving Childhood” starting with “Puberty Too Soon.”

It’s not often that mainstream media pays much attention to this subject and that is unfortunate because early menstruation brings with it a series of potential health risks that are becoming increasingly common for  women who eat typical Western diets.

While listing a lot of dubious causes for the rapidly falling age of menarche including too many sexy images on TV, and the ever popular catch all for unexplained health events, genetics; the article settled on the most obvious culprit: our culture’s relentless slide toward obesity.

If indeed our high fat, high protein, animal based diet of both meat and dairy at virtually every meal is to blame, that would fit with the survey that revealed a striking percentage of girls are hitting puberty at previously unimagined ages. In fact in just a 15-year period between 1991 and 2006 the median age of breast development has fallen from 10.9 years to 9.9 years.

In a breakdown of females entering puberty at age seven, the study found this was the case for 23% of African-American girls, 15% Hispanic, and 10% of European-American girls. This points a tell tale finger at diet as revealed by obesity as being the principal culprit. Obesity is more than twice as likely among blacks than whites with Hispanics falling evenly between these two groups.

Also, not surprisingly, blacks have been subject to relentless marketing efforts by fast food companies to purchase high fat, high calorie products at the lowest prices. Another tragic result of these marketing efforts is the rapidly rising rate of diabetes among African Americans.

Further, it is essential to note that in many Asian and African cultures where meat, dairy and fat intake are far lower, menarche comes commonly between 14 and 15 years of age.

In addition to the psychological impact of maturing far too rapidly, there is a direct statistical correlation between early puberty and the development of breast and uterine cancers later in life.

For reasons that researchers do not yet understand, a high fat, high protein diet appears to cause the premature release of hormones into the body. While medical treatments are available now to slow this hormone growth, a reduction of an animal based diet in favor of a whole grain plant based diet would seem to be the least expensive, and least invasive approach. The same advice one would be wise to follow in the hope of reducing their risk of cancer and heart disease.

In the story of obesity, there are a lot of telling and disturbing details. Puberty at the age of seven is high on that list. It’s unlikely with the financial and political power that the meat and dairy industries wield in America that this story will be told broadly or that our Congress is going to actively look for answers. We’re left to follow the clues largely on our own.

Hopefully they will lead us to conclusions that will help safeguard our future health and the health of our children.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right, and author of Fit in 50 Days.