Study: Cola consumption may lead to early periods for your daughter

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Sugar based sodas, colas, fruit drinks have been linked to an early onset of menarche, a cause of alarm for many parents.

It has always been known that sweetened beverages lead to an increase in the BMI. However, in a landmark study, the link between Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSB) and early menarche has been established. And, girls who consume more than 1.5 servings of SSBs per day are more likely to get their periods 2.7 months earlier.

The study

The Growing up Today Study included 16 875 children from 50 states in the USA. A part of the study was to observe the link between SSBs and early menarche. For the study, consumption patterns of non-carbonated fruit drinks, sugar-sweetened sodas, diet sodas, juices, and iced tea was observed in 5583 premenarcheal girls between the ages of 9 and 14. 

It was observed that the girls who consumed about 10.5 servings per week (1.5 servings per day) were more likely to get their periods 2.7 months earlier than the girls who consumed less than 2 servings per week. The advance of menarche was even higher in girls who consumed more than 1.5 servings per day.

Sugar sweetened sodas and non-carbonated fruit drinks seemed to be the culprits. Diet sodas and iced teas did not show much of an impact on the age of menarche. This could mean that caffeine and sugar together in a drink may be the cause. One of the reasons could be the increase in the amount of circulating insulin - a hormone responsible to metabolise the sugar in these drinks. 

Boosted insulin can result in higher concentrations of sex hormones, and large changes in the levels of these have been linked to periods starting earlier. However, this does not mean that a regular consumption of diet sodas and iced teas should be encouraged!

Why is this significant?

Understandably, even 3 months does not seem significant when it comes to menarche. However, the study studied girls in just one region. The impact may end up being more in other regions, owing to different dietary consumption patterns. Thankfully, in Asia, the consumption of SSBs is a bit less than that observed in the USA. That said, the trend of having an SSB with a meal is increasing in Asia. 

Early menarche has its own issues. It has been linked to breast cancer, endometrial cancer, menstrual problems, and adult obesity. Psychological problems associated with an early onset of periods has not been fully studied, but imagine a young girl, barely out of her childhood, showing early signs of puberty. Simply put, menarche should arrive when it is supposed to arrive, not earlier. 

What can we do as parents

The most obvious solution is to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by the whole family. However, it needs to be done in a manner that will 'stick'.

So, here is a 3 step process to reduce the consumption of sodas by your children. 

1# Demonstrate the sugar level in sodas

Do one small experiment. Take an empty glass. Fill half of it with a cola of your choice. Fill the rest of it with club soda. Taste it. Surprisingly, it does not taste that different. The reason is, there is so much sugar in the soda that even after dilution, it seems to be sufficiently sweet. 

There are 35 grammes of sugar in a can of soda. It is roughly equivalent to 7 sachets of sugar you see in a cafe. Explain this to your children and suddenly colas will seem less attractive. 

2# Encourage consumption of lemonade instead of sports drinks

There are many carbonated and non-carbonated sports drinks that are available in the market. Sadly, they also add to the consumption patterns of soda. So let your child carry some homemade lemonade to her soccer games instead of her relying on sports drinks

3# Allow cheat days

Restricting something, especially for teenagers might backfire. I know people who were not allowed junk food growing up, and now they almost exclusively have their food at a fast-food chain. The way out is allowing cheat days. Let your child have some soda and even junk food once in a while. 

However, don't do this as a celebration. Don't make her feel that soda is so good that it is actually a reward for an achievement. Instead, just go out one day and have a happy meal! 

Make these subtle changes in your daughter's life and help her grow up at a pace that she deserves!

Also, read How much sugar is hiding in your kid’s favourite drink?

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Written by

Anay Bhalerao

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