Vitamin D supplementation may help prevent early onset of puberty in young girls, according to research presented at the Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco on Monday.
For young girls, puberty usually begins between the ages of 10 and 14 years, while young boys start a bit later between 12 and 16 years. Precocious puberty is diagnosed when girls start developing before the age of 8. In boys, early puberty is diagnosed when sexual development starts before age 9. Early puberty is much more common in girls than it is in boys. Children who experience precocious puberty often stop growing earlier than usual, causing them to be shorter than the average adult. Children who experience puberty before their peers may also be extremely self-conscious; potentially causing social and emotional problems later in life.
Previous research reports that girls with precocious puberty often have low vitamin D levels, although the reason for this relationship remains unclear.
Researchers compared vitamin D blood levels of girls with early and normal development. Participants included 110 girls between the ages of 7 to 10 years. Seventy-five girls displayed normal patterns of development, while 35 were diagnosed with precocious puberty.
The authors reported that girls with precocious puberty were significantly more likely to have low vitamin D status when compared to those with average age development. The authors found that 44% of girls in the early puberty group were severely vitamin D deficient, while 21% with average age puberty were severely deficient. The researchers also looked at the activity of neurons involved in releasing a hormone that triggers the ovulation process (menstruation). They found that vitamin D was associated with a suppression of these “trigger” hormones.
“Our results suggest that vitamin D may inhibit early pubertal onset and/or the rapid progression of puberty,” The authors explain.
They call for further trials, including studies with animal models to investigate the group’s findings.