Health Buzz: Obesity Linked to Early Puberty in Girls

Raising your gluten-free child; the case for taste bud rehab

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Study: The early onset of breasts in girls may be linked to obesity

Obesity may play a major role in the early onset of puberty in girls, according to a study published today in the Pediatrics journal. Researchers analyzed about 1,200 girls who had enrolled in the study between ages six and eight. They checked in with the girls regularly from 2004 through 2011, keeping track of established signs of maturation, including breast development. The median age at which the girls developed breasts was 8.8 for African American girls, 9.3 for Hispanic girls, 9.7 for white non-Hispanic girls (sooner than previously recorded) and 9.7 for Asian girls. The girls with higher body mass indexes developed breasts sooner.

"The impact of earlier maturation in girls has important clinical implications involving psychosocial and biologic outcomes," states Frank Biro, lead investigator and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center physician, in a press release. "The current study suggests clinicians may need to redefine the ages for both early and late maturation in girls." The release cites self-esteem issues, depression, norm-breaking behaviors and lower academic achievement, as well as greater risks of obesity, hypertension and several cancers as possible results of earlier maturation.

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  • Raising Your Gluten-Free Child

    While celiac disease can begin at any age, the condition typically presents in early childhood, writes U.S. News blogger Tamara Duker Freuman. As if feeding young children wasn't tricky enough with the standard issues of pickiness, food jags, neophobia and sugary predilections, feeding them on a restricted diet complicates matters even further. So when a gluten-free diet becomes a medical necessity for your growing kid, how do you manage?

    Full disclosure: I have celiac disease myself, but I'm not raising my three-year-old twins on a gluten-free diet. Still, I strongly believe in shared family meals where adults and kids eat the same food. As a result, I spend a good deal of time planning menus that are both gluten-free and nutritionally appropriate for everyone in the family. Here are a few pointers I can offer as both a gluten-free mom and dietitian:

    1. Remember that gluten-free junk food is still junk food. When children are diagnosed with celiac disease, parents can sometimes project feelings of deprivation and exclusion onto them. As a result, many wind up overcompensating for the dietary restriction by filling their pantry with gluten-free versions of every possible treat that's off-limits to their child. Nowadays, there are gluten-free versions of Oreo cookies, s'mores and Betty Crocker cake mixes –even Dunkin' Donuts is launching a gluten-free doughnut later this year. So it's worth stating that the absence of wheat does not make these gluten-free sweets any healthier than the standard versions. Don't buy gluten-free varieties of junk foods whenever you shop just because you can. Dole them out as judiciously as you would if your child did not have celiac disease. [Read more: Raising Your Gluten-Free Child]

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    • The Case for Taste Bud Rehab

      The scientific evidence, which I have reviewed thoroughly, is quite clear and entirely convincing all on its own: Taste buds are adaptable little fellas. When they can't be with foods they love, they learn to love the foods they're with, writes U.S. News blogger David Katz.

      Even in the absence of scientific studies showing how readily taste preferences can change, it simply stands to reason that they would. The job of taste buds is not to make us happy or unhappy, although they can do both. The job of taste buds is all about survival; they are sentinels at the main gate to our inner world. Their job is to distinguish friend from foe.

      The trouble, though, is that we have to be able to make new friends. In native context, this is referred to as the omnivore's paradox. Any time our Stone Age ancestors tried a new food, there was a chance it might kill them – so they tended to be quite reticent about doing so (i.e., neophobia = fear of the new). On the other hand, as they wandered, if they didn't try new foods, they were destined to starve – so they were prone to give it a shot (i.e., neophilia = love of the new).