Childhood Obesity Again Tied to Earlier Puberty in Girls

Study compared onset age of breast development in 1997 and now

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Vuguin said research like this is important for doctors because they need to keep evaluating what "normal" development is. There is a difference between relatively earlier puberty and what doctors call "precocious puberty" -- which can have consequences such as stunted growth because the bones stop maturing earlier than normal.

Traditionally, Vuguin said, precocious puberty has been defined as signs of puberty -- including breast development -- before the age of 8 in girls. Doctors may use hormonal medications to treat it.

"But if you have, for example, an obese African-American girl who is developing breasts at the age of 7, that might be 'normal' now," Vuguin said. "I think there is starting to be a shift in how we're looking at this: Should we treat it, or let it be? It's complicated."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on development during puberty.

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