Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like carbonated drinks and sodas has previously been linked to an increased risk of obesity and type II diabetes. Now a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction finds that girls who frequently consume sugary drinks often begin menstruating earlier, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half of Americans including approximately 60 percent of females between the ages of 2 and 19 years old consume sugary drinks on any given day.
For the present study, researchers led by Karin Michels, associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston sought to determine a link, if any, between sugar-sweetened beverages and age of menarche.
The researchers analyzed data on 5,583 girls between the ages of 9 and 14 who were a part of the Growing Up Today Study, which involves 16,875 children of participants from the Nurses Health Study II. During the five years of the study, the girls completed a dietary questionnaire that disclosed their consumption of sugary drinks several times.
None of the girls had started menstruating at the start of the study in 1996. By the end of the study in 2001, 159 girls (3 percent) had started menstruating.
According to the study, girls who drank the most sugary drinks began menstruating at age 12.8 while girls who drank the least started at age 13. Girls who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages each week being menstruating 2.7 months earlier than girls who drank two or fewer servings weekly. Additionally, girls at any age between 9 and 18.5 years old who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks each day were approximately 24 percent more likely to begin menstruating in the next month than girl who drank two or fewer servings weekly.
In other words, drinking sugary drinks appears to lower the age at which a girl begins menstruation.
The results remained consistent even after accounting for confounding factors such as body mass index (BMI), birth weight, height physical activity, ethnicity andrace, family composition, and how often the girls ate dinner with their families.
“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 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.”
The researchers did not find an association between diet soda and fruit juice and the age at which a girl started menstruating. However, a 2014 study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology suggests that fruit juice is as bad as sugary drinks because of a comparably high sugar content. The researchers also found no association between consumption of artificially and naturally sweetened drinks and age of menarche.
Conclude the researchers:
“Our findings suggest that frequent consumption of SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] may be associated with earlier menarche. A one-year decrease in age at menarche is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by 5% …. thus, a 2.7 month-decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk. The amount of SSBs consumed by girls in our highest category of consumption, more than 1.5 servings per day, however, is likely low compared with consumption in certain other populations, in which we would expect an even more dramatic decrease in age at menarche …. Most importantly, the public health significance of SSB consumption at age at menarche, and possibly breast cancer, should not be over-looked, since, unlike most other predictors of menarche, SSB consumption can be modified.”
The researchers believe that sugary drinks, which have a higher glycemic index than naturally sweetened drinks, can trigger a rise in insulin concentrations, which can then lead to an increase in concentrations of sex hormones, which can cause earlier menstruation.
The finding that girls who drink the most sugary drinks start menstruating earlier could also reveal an increased of breast cancer in the future. Earlier menstruation has been associated with increased risk of the disease. A one-year decrease in the onset of menarche increases the risk of breast cancer by five percent. Explain the researchers, “Thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk.”
“The amount of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed by girls in our highest category of consumption, more than 1.5 servings per day, however, is likely low compared with consumption in certain other populations, in which we would expect an even more dramatic decrease in age at menarche.
“Most importantly, the public health significance of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption at age at menarche, and possibly breast cancer, should not be overlooked, since, unlike most other predictors of menarche, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can be modified.”
Another recent study concluded that the age at which a woman begins her menstrual cycle influences the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Frequent sugary drink consumption linked to earlier menstruation onset: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288587.php
Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and age at menarche in a prospective study of US girls: http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/01/16/humrep.deu349.short
Sugary drinks linked to earlier onset of menstrual periods: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=149109&CultureCode=en
Green Cream Soda: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/682311