Coming of Age in America (Much Too Soon)
by Linda Folden Palmer, DC
Author The BABY BOND
Reprinted from Dynamic Chiropractic
Girls in the U.S. and other industrialized nations are now reaching puberty at drastically earlier ages.1 However, Hispanic-American girls don't experience this early puberty to the extent that many other Americans do, reported Mary Wolf,MD, at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting in April, 1999 in Philadelphia.2
Two factors proven responsible for precocious puberty are detached parenting3 and consumption of cow's milk. As a whole, Hispanic parents tend to protect their young from both of these debilitating influences. Children who reach puberty and menarche early have adult sexual feelings they don't understand, which then leads to increased teen pregnancy and venereal disease. There is also a greatly increased risk of reproductive cancers, including breast cancer.4
When an infant is raised with natural feeding, plenty of body contact and a high level of affectionate response, strong attachment bonds are developed.5 According to attachment researchers, the consequences of this parenting style are fewer behavior problems and mental disorders, less social misconduct, a greater ability to form lasting adult relationships, and improved overall health.6 In contrast, when nursing is withheld from a baby and there is maternal separation during much of the day and night, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are produced.7 This leads to permanently altered brain function, hormonal imbalance and reduced immune functioning, as well as increased mental and behavior problems and a decreased ability to deal with stress throughout life.8,9,10,11
Cow's milk has a high fat content, high levels of biologically available hormones and growth factors, and other chemical contaminants from highly medicated cows fed environmental trash12 (chicken feces and diseased carcasses, for instance). These are all linked to early puberty and proliferation of cancer cells in human reproductive organs.13,14,15 Moreover, immune reactions to large bovine proteins are associated with gastrointestinal disease16 and cancer.17,18 When consumption of cow's milk starts in infancy (via baby formulas), the consequences seem to be the most dire.19
Hispanic children are more often breastfed, and for extended periods. This leads not only to good attachment, but prevents exposure to artificial feeds derived from bovine milk. Hispanic youngsters often sleep with their parents or other family members and grow up in warmer family-oriented environments, resulting in deeper attachments between children and parents, thereby preventing high cortisol levels and their effects on early puberty.20 Early maturity is an innate survival response to inadequate resources in childhood21 seen in many mammals.
When resources are scarce - namely, when parents and nutrition are less available, children become more aggressive (to be able to compete for limited food resources), and they mature more quickly (providing for survival of the species as opposed to quality of life). 20th-century parenting often signals scarcity responses in an infant, including practices such as leaving children alone to "cry it out," feeding on schedules rather than in response to hunger cries, and providing less nutritious feed (infant formula).
In general, the consumption of dairy products in traditional Hispanic homes beyond infancy is also lower than U.S. averages. Although American Mexican food is often piled high with cheese and sour cream, this is not the case in traditional Hispanic homes.
Being genetically Hispanic is not enough. As a Hispanic family lives in the U.S. for several generations, their level of physical and psychological disease increases.22 Evidently, as standard American baby care and diet are adopted, American levels of decreased health (and presumable early puberty) are produced. Although it is more difficult to measure, it is felt that early maturation is being experienced by boys as well.
Dear Dr. Palmer, My 8y.o. daughter is growing breast tissue...
- Herman-Giddens ME, et al. Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls seen in office practice: a study from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings network. Pediatrics Apr 1997;99(4):505-12.
- Spinney L. Hispanic girls reach puberty later. BioMed News, April 12, 1999.
- Graber JA, et al. The antecedents of menarcheal age: heredity, family environment, and stressful life events. Child Dev Apr 1996;66(2):346-59.
- Stoll BA, et al. Does early physical maturity influence breast cancer risk? Acta Oncol (England) 1994;33(2):171-6.
- Main M. Introduction to the special section on attachment and psychopathology: 2. Overview of the field of attachment. J Consult Clin Psychol Apr 1996;64(2):237-43.
- Harris ES, et al. Quality of mother-infant attachment and pediatric health care use. Pediatrics Aug 1989;84(2):248-54.
- Spangler G, Grossmann KE. Biobehavioral organization in securely and insecurely attached infants. Child Dev Oct 1993;64(5):1439-50.
- Gunnar MR. Quality of care and buffering of neuroendocrine stress reactions: potential effects on the developing human brain. Prev Med Mar/Apr 1998;27(2):208-11.
- Anisman H, et al. Do early life events permanently alter behavioral and hormonal responses to stressors? Int J Dev Neurosci Jun/Jul 1998;16(3-4):149-64.
- Raber J. Detrimental effects of chronic hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation. From obesity to memory deficits. Mol Neurobiol Aug 1998;18(1):1-22.
- Lubach GR, et al. Effects of early rearing environment on immune responses of infant rhesus monkeys. Brain Behav Immun Mar 1995;9(1):31-46.
- Gilka J, et al. Foreign substances in the meat and organs of bulls and pigs fed with pastes made from household and food industry waste in addition to pastes made from poultry droppings. Vet Med (Praha-Czechoslovakia) Dec 1987;32(12):721-30.
- Stoll BA. Western diet, early puberty and breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Res Treat (England) Jun 1998;49(3):187-93.
- Outwater JL, et al. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF-I, estrogen and bGH hypothesis. Med Hypotheses Jun 1997;48(6):453-61.
- Kato I, et al. Factors related to late menopause and early menarche as risk factors for breast cancer. Jpn J Cancer Res (Japan) Feb 1998;79(2):165-72.
- Knoflach P, et al. Serum antibodies to cow's milk proteins in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Gastroenterology Feb 1987;92(2):479-85.
- Karlen P, et al. Increased risk of cancer in ulcerative colitis: a population-based cohort study, Am J Gastroenterol (Sweden) Apr 1999;94(4):1047-52.
- Nyberg F, et al. Dietary factors and risk of lung cancer in never-smokers. Int J Cancer (Sweden) Nov 1998;78(4):430-6.
- Davis MK. Review of the evidence for an association between infant feeding and childhood cancer. Int J Cancer suppl 1998(11):29-33.
- Dorn LD, et al. Biopsychological and cognitive differences in children with premature vs. on time adrenarche. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med Feb 1999;153(2):137-46.
- Belsky J, et al. Childhood experience, interpersonal development and reproductive strategy: and evolutionary theory of socialization. Child Dev Aug 1991;62(4):647-70.
- National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine. From generation to generation: the health and well-being of children in immigrant families. National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine Report. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.
Linda Folden Palmer, DC
San Diego, California