New research has found a link between higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and earlier menarche (first menstrual cycle). Published in the journal Human Reproduction, the research looked at data for 5,583 premenarcheal girls between 9-14 years old who were children of participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II. SSB consumption, specifically of non-carbonated fruit drinks and sugar-sweetened iced tea and soda, was determined using food questionnaires between 1996 and 1998; age at menarche was self-reported each year during the follow-up period. Here’s what researchers concluded:
Girls who reported drinking more than 1.5 servings of SSBs daily were 24% more likely to attain menarche in the next month compared to those girls who consumed 2 servings or less of SSBs weekly.
Girls who reported drinking 1.5 servings of SSBs daily were, on average, likely to attain menarche 2.7 months earlier than girls having 2 servings or less of SSBs weekly.
The association between SSBs and earlier menarche remained even after adjusting for other factors, such as birth weight, physical activity, race or ethnicity, and height.
These results pertain only to the added sugar in SSBs. Total sugar and caffeine intake did not appear to be linked with earlier menarche.
While the study is observational and so may not have taken into account all relevant lifestyle factors contributing to menarche, the results are consistent with other evidence showing that high insulin levels (which may result from eating too much sugar) can affect the levels of other hormones in the body. The findings are also of potential public health importance because earlier menarche is associated with a greater risk for breast cancer later in life—a one year decrease in age at menarche is associated with a 5% increased risk for breast cancer.
Source: Human Reproduction