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Maternal prepregnancy obesity implicated in precocious puberty in offspring

06 Aug 2019

Maternal prepregnancy obesity is associated with earlier age at voice break, pubic hair development, axillary hair and acne in sons, as well as with earlier age at menarche, breast development, pubic hair development, axillary hair and acne in daughters, a study has found. These associations appear to be mediated by higher childhood body mass index (BMI) in sons and partly so in daughters.

The study included 15,819 children from the Danish National Birth Cohort with available half-yearly data from the age of 11 years on the following pubertal milestones: tanner stages, voice break, first ejaculation, menarche, acne and axillary hair.

Researchers calculated adjusted mean monthly differences in age at attaining the pubertal milestones for children exposed to maternal prepregnancy obesity (BMI ≥30.0 kg/m2) or overweight (BMI 25.0–29.9 kg/m2) vs normal weight (BMI 18.5–24.9 kg/m2) as reference.

Maternal prepregnancy obesity was linked to earlier age at attaining most pubertal milestones in sons, whereas prepregnancy overweight and obesity were associated with earlier age at attaining all pubertal milestones in daughters.

When combining all pubertal milestones, earlier timing of puberty was associated with prepregnancy obesity in sons (adjusted mean age difference, −1.5 months, 95 percent CI, −2.5 to −0.4) and daughters (adjusted mean age difference, −3.2 months, −4.2 to −2.1). The association was also observed for prepregnancy overweight but only in daughters (adjusted mean age difference, −2.6 months, −3.3 to −1.8).

The associations in sons were completely mediated by higher childhood BMI but mainly through other mechanisms in daughters, the researchers noted. An increasing prevalence of prepregnancy obesity, or environmental causes of that obesity, could partly explain the secular trend toward earlier timing of puberty.

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