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The average age of a girl’s first menstruation has been decreasing in recent years. While there are a number of potentiation causes, consumption of the contributing of sugary drinks is the topic of a recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction. Researchers followed over 5,500 girls aged nine to 14 years and found that those who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks per day had their first period 2.7 months earlier, on average, than those who consumed two or fewer drinks per week.

“Our findings suggest that frequent consumption of sugar sweetened beverages may be associated with earlier menarche [onset of menstruation],” noted the authors. “A one-year decrease in age at menarche is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by five percent … thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk.”

In another study published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal that included over 1,400 women aged, on average, 61, researchers found that those women who were exposed to high levels of chemicals found in everyday household and personal care items experienced menopause two to four years earlier than those women with lower levels of these chemicals.

“Chemicals linked to earlier menopause may lead to an early decline in ovarian function, and our results suggest we as a society should be concerned,” noted Amber Cooper, lead researcher. “Many of these chemical exposures are beyond our control because they are in the soil, water, and air, but we can educate ourselves about our day-to-day chemical exposures and become more aware of the plastics and other household products we use.”

The researchers tested the women’s blood and urine for 111 chemicals from the following categories: dioxins/furans, phthalates, phytoestrogens, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phenols, organophosphate pesticides, surfactants, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Both of these studies are cause for concern. Although they do not prove causation, they suggest that reducing sugar intake in young girls, and reducing chemical exposure in women is a priority.