Girls who consume a high number of sugary drinks could have their first menstrual period earlier than those who drink less, according to a study.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School set out to investigate the relationship between sugar-sweetened drinks and the age at which girls have their first period.
They followed 5,583 girls aged between nine and 14 for six years (between 1996 and 2001). At the start of the study, none of the girls had started their periods.
Next, the researchers asked them to complete a questionnaire at several points during the study, which asked questions about how frequently, on average, they drank a serving of sugary drinks such as lemonade, ice tea and Coke.
Such drinks contain added sugar in the form of sucrose, glucose or corn syrup, while Coke and ice tea also contain caffeine.
It was found that participants who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks each day started their menstrual period 2.7 months earlier than those who consumed two or fewer sugary drinks a week.
The findings considered the girls’ body mass index, height, total food intake and lifestyle factors such as physical activity.
In light of the results, the authors concluded: ‘Our findings suggest that frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages may be associated with earlier menarche (menstruation).
‘A one-year decrease in age at menarche is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by five per cent…thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk.’