Young girls of overweight mothers with gestational diabetes could be more likely to develop puberty earlier, scientists claim.
Findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggest that girls’ metabolic programming may be affected as a result of their mother’s diabetes, causing the early onset of pubic hair.
Hitting puberty early increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes in adulthood, as well as cancer and obesity, Kaiser Permanente Division researchers added.
Study author Ai Kubo said: “Very few previous studies have examined the association between maternal pregnancy or pre-pregnancy factors and the timing of puberty in daughters.
“Understanding what causes earlier onset of puberty is important in designing prevention strategies. Women who are planning on becoming pregnant or are pregnant should be aware that their obesity or gestational diabetes may influence their child’s health in the future, beyond the known risk of childhood obesity.”
The study was based on research conducted over a seven-year period on an ethnically diverse sample of 421 young girls and their mothers, using the Cohort study of Young Girls’ Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions (CYGNET).
The girls were monitored between 2005 and 2012, as trained personnel took yearly measurements of their weight, height and other parameters.
Scientists discovered girls were 2.5 times more likely to develop pubic hair earlier than others if their mother was overweight before becoming pregnant and had gestational diabetes.
Lawrence Kushi, principal investigator, said: “This research builds on our long-term study of puberty development in girls, which has been underway since the girls were between six and eight years old, and the pairing of their data with information in Kaiser Permanente’s electronic medical records about their mothers.”
This study backs up previous research from CYGNET data which found maternal obesity and gestational diabetes were linked to early puberty in girls.

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