Early puberty may mean anxiety, abnormal eating behaviors later

PITTSBURGH Going through puberty at a young age might foretell problems to come, report researchers who found early puberty is associated with abnormal eating behaviors and anxiety in young adults. Results of the study were reported at the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN 2006).

Researchers who study puberty say it is more than just an awkward phase when boys and girls are primed for their sexual reproductive years as men and women. Puberty also is a delicate and dynamic time in the development of the brain, when important neural pathways essential for behavioral and cognitive functions are formed. Indeed, brains of children going through puberty are especially vulnerable to the effects of marijuana, suggest results of animal research also reported at ICN 2006, which takes place June 1922 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Summaries of the studies' findings and other research looking at what triggers puberty follow:

Early puberty associated with eating and anxiety problems as young adults

A study involving 1,500 college students suggests that those who experience early puberty are more likely to engage in abnormal eating behaviors and have feelings of anxiety in young adulthood. Interestingly, the researchers found the association not limited to girls. In fact, the study conducted by Julia Zehr, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Michigan State University, and colleagues, found that both female and male students who reported they'd entered puberty earlier than their friends and peers scored significantly higher for measures related to binge eating, dieting and concerns about food intake, weight or body shape, as well as anxiety.

The findings are consistent with the idea that such behaviors result from long-lasting changes in brain circuitry that occur during early puberty, when a still-developing brain must adapt to the presence of surging hormones. Eating and anxiety


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