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Young girls in America are said to be hitting puberty far quicker than expected, and the reason could be "childhood obesity".
The strange phenomena was first detected by Dr Marcia Herman-Giddens, a public health expert at the University of North Carolina, who gathered data on more than 17,000 girls from the mid-1990s.
Herman-Giddens' research found that the average age of puberty was dropping, falling from 10-years-old, with some girls developing as early as six.
With no concrete reasons for the drop in puberty beginnings, experts believe it may be because of increasing obesity rates, the prevalence of chemicals in plastic and the stresses of everyday life.
Experts also warned that girls developing puberty from an earlier age than usual are more at risk of cancer and mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Speaking to the New York Times, Herman-Giddens said that the number of girls developing quickly did not "seem right" and now researchers are working to find out why this has happened.
No conclusive research has been aired, but experts have laid out three potential causes that are currently being investigated.
Multiple studies have linked early-life obesity to an early puberty, though there is not a mechanism in place explaining this link.
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Dr Natalie Shaw, a paediatric endocrinologist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said: "I don't think there's much controversy that obesity is a major contributor to early puberty these days.
"Obesity can't explain all of this…it's just happened too quickly."
Around one-in-five children in the U.S. aged two through 19 are obese, according to official figures reported by the Daily Mail.
An increased amount of stress and increased levels of chemicals could also play a part in the early puberty problem, with physicians noting an increase in reports of early puberty during the coronavirus pandemic.
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