Maternal overweight and hyperglycemia or high blood sugar are linked to the earlier onset of puberty in girls, which can lead to multiple adverse health developments in adulthood, finds a study. The results showed that maternal obesity (body mass index of 30 or more) and overweight (body mass index between 25 and 30) in mothers was associated with 40% and 20% greater chance of earlier breast development in girls aged 6 to 11, respectively.
“We know that maternal weight can influence childhood weight. What we are learning is that the utero environment may also affect the timing of future pubertal development in offspring, which makes sense since human brains are developed in utero and the brain releases hormones affecting puberty,” said lead author Ai Kubo, research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.
Similar associations between maternal obesity and earlier onset were also linked with the development of pubic hair. The study also found a significant relationship between hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar during pregnancy) in mothers and the earlier onset of breast development, but not in mothers with gestational diabetes.
“It’s possible that women with the diagnosis of gestational diabetes were more careful about weight and diet, which might have changed the amount of weight gain and offspring development patterns, but other studies need to replicate the finding to be able to conclude that there is an association,” Kubo noted.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the team included more than 15,000 girls and their mothers. Previous researches have demonstrated that early puberty, including the early onset of breast development or menarche (initiation of menstruation), increases the risk of adverse health outcomes including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and cancer in adolescence and adulthood.
For girls, it has been linked to a higher risk of adverse emotional and behavioural outcomes including depression, anxiety, earlier sexual initiation and pregnancy.