Tag Archives: puberty

Adopted Children Experience Early Sexual Maturity


Puberty occurs when areas within the brain awaken beginning a cascade of hormone signals which conclude with the gonads (ovaries and testicles) increasing their production of the female and male sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Under the influence of these hormones a child begins the transition from childhood to sexual maturity. In boys puberty is associated with a growth spurt, the appearance of facial, axillary (arm pit) and pubic hair, acne, deepening of the voice, growth of the testicles and penis while girls undergo a growth spurt, develop breasts, acne, pubic and axillary hair, and growth of the clitoris.

Historical data shows the average age of puberty today is many years sooner than in previous generations. Most experts attribute earlier puberty to better nutrition. A recent article in metabolism.com reviewed how “over-nutrition” accelerates obese children into puberty sooner (referred to as precocious puberty) than normal weight children. The latest studies on causes of precocious puberty suggests that a child’s social environment also exerts an important influence on the timing of puberty. Researchers in Madrid publishing in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 95:4305 2010 analyzed the age of puberty in normal children, adopted children and children whose families immigrated (children not adopted but subject to high levels of personal stress) to Spain. Adopted children were 25 times more likely than other groups of children to undergo precocious puberty (breast development before the age of 8 years in girls, and boys under 9 years of age with testicular growth). Over-all girls were 11 times more likely than boys to demonstrate precocious puberty.

Researchers speculate that socio-emotional stresses early in life of children who are later adopted result in changes in the brain that cause premature maturation of vital nerve pathways. This early brain maturation later results in stimulation of the pituitary gland, turning on the hormone pathways that cause puberty. This seems strange to me because various forms of deprivation in childhood can also delay puberty. For example, girls who have anorexia remain child-like in their body development and may fail to menstruate even into their late teens. A decade ago I studied hormone levels in adults during the stress of illness and surgery and found this lowered the sex hormone levels in their blood. This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view because during stressful conditions nature wisely cuts off the reproductive hormones. Why make babies if the environment is hostile in some way? Why the opposite occurs in children under stress of adoption is an interesting but unanswered question.

Gary Pepper, M.D.,
Editor-in-Chief, metabolism.com

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Can Growth Hormone Treatment Make Me Taller?


At metabolism.com we receive a lot of questions from members wondering whether growth hormone therapy will help them grow taller. Lorraine’s question, posted below, is typical. The single most important factor determining the effect of growth hormone on improving height, is whether the bone still has growth plates that are “open” because when the growth plates close (or fuse), the bone cannot get any longer. If the bone’s in the legs cannot grow full adult height has been achieved and taking growth hormone won’t change that.

Here is Lorraine’s question and below that is my response.

Lorraine writes to metabolism.com:

I’m 21 years old and am only 4 “10. Is there any way that HGH injections could help me grow a couple of inches? Please respond back to my question because I need to know if its too late since I already hit puberty.

My response to Lorraine is the following (I’m assuming Lorraine is really 21…not 12)

Lorraine:

From the time of birth we grow rapidly in good part due to the action of growth hormone which is released from the pituitary gland.

At puberty the release of testosterone in boys and estrogen in girls begins the process of final bone maturation. Children often experience a period of rapid growth known as a growth spurt at this time. Girls usually complete their growth spurt within a year or two of their first menstrual period. Boys tend to finish their growth phase when they are older compared to girls.

Growth ends because the areas of the bones known as the growth plates become sealed or fused. After that growth hormone has little effect to cause increased height. Bones in the face, feet and hands may still be susceptible to growth effects of growth hormone, with not particularly desirable results.

An adult who has not grown in a few years cannot generally get taller in response to growth hormone due to the fusion of their long bones. Taking HGH is unlikely to make you taller.

Aside from controlling height, growth hormone is likely to have other non-growth related benefits like preserving muscle and soft tissue and perhaps other general maintenance functions in the immune and central nervous systems. These benefits of growth hormone can be lost during aging since the pituitary production of growth hormone usually declines in later years.

I hope this information is helpful for you.

Disclaimer: This information does not substitute for the advice of your own physician and is for general learning purposes only.

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