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Mother’s Weight Determines Daughter’s Menarche?

Does it seem like daughters are growing into women (at least physically) faster than in previous generations?

This may be an interesting consequence of the obesity epidemic, based on new research by Sarah Keim and colleagues from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD, USA, just published in EPIDEMIOLOGY.

In a follow-up study of the prospective Collaborative Perinatal Project, about 600 grown daughters were asked in 1987-1991 for their age at menarche and compared to data from the original Collaborative Perinatal Project (1959-1966), which included their mothers’ height and prepregnancy weight.

Compared with mothers with a BMI less than 25, the daughters of mothers with a BMI of 30 or greater were three times more likely to experience their first period at ages 12 or younger. This association remained after adjusting for maternal age at menarche, maternal parity, socioeconomic status, and other factors.

While the data clearly show an association between maternal obesity and younger menarcheal age among daughters in this study, the study of course does not prove causality nor does it provide any insight into the biological mechanisms underlying this association.

Nevertheless, I do wonder about the consequences of early menarche on the psyche and physical development of young girls born to obese mothers and its impact on future generations.

Berlin, Germany


  1. Dr Sharma, Could this be due to the diet the mother’s were eating? For instance lots of dairy? When were growth hormones an issue in dairy foods and meats?

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  2. So I wonder, Dr. Sharma, how do we determine what is the truly “normal” age for menarche? Could it be that earlier menarche is actually more normal than later menarche? I was born in 1954. I know that my mother was told not to gain more than 20 lbs when she was pregnant with me. She was not overweight at the time, either. Yet my menarche was before the age of 12. I’m aware of some studies in mice that showed that when the calorie intake of pregnant mice was restricted, the offspring ate more and were less active. To me, it seems like this is a very complicated subject that should not be oversimplified. I’ve also heard that decreased hours of sleep can lead to “precocious puberty”. This was something I heard from a colleague, so I’m not aware of the research that supports it.

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  3. My mother was very skinny but I had my menarche at 11.

    The study WAS done in the U.S., but, in regard to Jina’s question, this might be a good time to remind Canadian readers that our farmers are forbidden by law from giving dairy cows hormones to make them produce more milk.

    And thank goodness for that!

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