Journal of the Endocrine Society Journal Article

Patterns of Weight Gain and Onset of Puberty

December 14, 2021
 

Maria E Bleil, Bradley M Appelhans, Steven E Gregorich, Alexis S Thomas, Robert A Hiatt, Glenn I Roisman, Cathryn Booth-LaForce
Journal of the Endocrine Society, Volume 5, Issue 12, December 2021, bvab165
https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvab165

Abstract

Context

Prepubertal obesity is a well-established predictor of earlier pubertal onset, which is itself a risk factor for poor health and well-being. Identifying specific patterns of weight gain in early life may help explain differential risk for earlier pubertal onset.

Objective

The objective of the study was to examine patterns of weight gain across infancy and early childhood in relation to pubertal onset outcomes.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Participants were 426 girls in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a longitudinal birth cohort of children and their families followed between birth and adolescence.

Main Outcome Measures

Three pubertal onset outcomes were examined, including age at menarche and ages at Tanner stage II for dimensions of breast and pubic hair development.

Results

In infancy (birth to 15 months), greater percent weight gain and higher birthweight predicted earlier pubertal onset for all outcomes (Ps < 0.05). In early childhood (24 months to grade 1), body mass index (BMI) trajectories reflecting BMI values that were persistently high or changed from low to high over time (vs BMI values that were stable at median or low levels), predicted younger ages at menarche and the onset of breast (Ps < 0.05), but not pubic hair (Ps > 0.05), development. All associations were independent of breastfeeding, maternal menarcheal age, and race/ethnicity.

Conclusions

Distinct patterns of early life weight gain predict differential risk for earlier onset puberty. Focusing on these patterns for earlier and more targeted intervention may help lessen life course linkages between prepubertal obesity, accelerated pubertal development, and negative postpubertal outcomes.

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