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One in seven Caucasian North American girls starts to develop breasts or pubic hair by age eight, and it's one in two for African American girls, according to an article in Time Magazine. Early puberty usually causes girls to end up very short because puberty stops them from growing.

Nadia Comenici, the great Olympic gymnast won four gold medals when she was 4 feet, 10 inches. She is now 5 feet, 7 inches. Because of her late puberty, she was allowed several extra years to grow. Early puberty makes girls targets of jokes by their male classmates. Worst of all, it makes them targets for older boys and male predators who will take away their youth with early sexual activity and prevent them from achieving goals that lead to success in later life, such as good grades in school, music and athletic endeavors.

Most scientists feel that there is not enough good data to blame early breast formation on PCBs, DDT, phthalate in the plastics industry and other chemicals in our environment. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that being overweight and eating too many calories brings on premature puberty, while poor nutrition and starvation delay it. It is not reasonable to ask parents to delay puberty by withholding food. They can try vegetarianism which delays puberty somewhat, but the whole family must participate. One way to delay puberty is to get young girls into highly competitive athletic programs early in life. Puberty is often delayed in children who train for ballet, running, swimming or gymnastics.

If vigorous athletic training is not an option, parents need to learn how to cope with early puberty. Early puberty is associated with early sexual interest and participation, and early sexual participation is associated with lack of success in school and lack of goals that help young women compete for college, good jobs and other endeavors. Parents need to take an interest in their children, teach them about sexuality, not lie to them because they are going to hear enough lies from their classmates, and help them to be proud of their bodies and not ashamed of them.

Time Magazine, October 30, 2000

Checked 8/9/05

June 1st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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