June 11/Brighton, England/PA Regional Newswire of English Regions -- A diet high in meat may lead to early puberty in girls, a new study at the University of Brighton suggests.
The research, led by Dr Imogen Rogers at the university in East Sussex, compared the diets of 3,000 12-year-old girls. It found that girls who had higher intakes of meat and protein aged three and seven were more likely to have started their periods by the time they were 12-and-a-half years old than girls who ate less meat and protein.
The report found that 49% of girls eating more than 12 portions of meat a week at the age of seven had started their periods by 12-and-a-half years, compared with 35% of those who ate less than four portions of meat a week.
Rogers, a senior lecturer at the university's school of pharmacy and biomolecular sciences, said there was evidence that girls who start their periods early were at higher risk of a number of diseases, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and heart disease.
She said, "Meat is a good source of many important nutrients including iron and zinc, and there is no reason why girls should adopt a vegetarian diet or that meat in moderation cannot form a valuable part of a balanced diet for children."
She said the findings needed repeating in other populations before firm recommendations on diet can be made.
However, she added, "These results add to the evidence that it is healthiest to avoid diets containing very high amounts of meat."
The research, funded by the World Cancer Research Fund and involving researchers from the University of Bristol, has been published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
From the June 14, 2010, Prepared Foods' Daily News
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