Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape

25Jan/110

Teenage mums and the burger bun

Bread people - responsible for fathering kids worldwide

Whenever you hear politicians banging on - and let’s face it, they do bang on - about teenage pregnancy, one sentence I can guarantee you’ll never hear is that ‘one of real reasons the UK has the dubious honour of being a world leader of teenagers popping sproglets is because we also are fighting for top place in the world obesity stakes too’.  In short, eating badly increases teenage pregnancy. Why? Simple evolution.

Now classic bait and switch, but I realise correlation isn’t causation. And there are many reasons for teenage pregnancies – contraception, education, job opportunities, cultural, peer group, so saying anything so trite as x=y is going to be wide of the mark. But what I am convinced of it’s a contributory factor. Here’s why.

What started me thinking about this was that if as a country we, and in fact every other Western country, are full of people fundamentally malnourished – obesity being a form of malnourishment – there should be plenty more effects than simply being a bit tubby. And oh boy, it’s a rabbit hole. Once you start picking it apart you realise the effects of food processing go far, far, far beyond looking a bit tubby. Solid nutrition is the foundation of any society, so if you screw that up, you can expect a whole range of societal problems. Teenage pregnancy is just one of them.

First off, take a look at the correlation from Nationmaster:

The UK tops the leagues for both obesity and teenage pregnancy. But it’s not just about correlations – being obese increases sexual maturity rates. Girls hit puberty earlier when they’re obese, and if there’s one sure fire way to increase pregnancy rates, it’s by kids having sex earlier. This isn’t rampant speculation on my part. One study says:

“Nutrition is an important regulator of the tempo of human growth. Infancy may represent a critical 'window' where variations in nutrition have longer-term consequences for growth and development. Rapid weight gain during infancy is associated with accelerated growth and early pubertal development.”

More specifically:

“More detailed studies show that “obesity's being an important contributing factor to the earlier onset of puberty in girls. Factors other than obesity, however, perhaps genetic and/or environmental ones, are needed to explain the higher prevalence of early puberty in black versus white girls”

I’d take a stab at it and say given the enormous rise in rickets in this country, vitamin D deficiencies play a big role in early onset puberty. Which is tied to sunlight yes, but also crucially to calcium, tied to sugar consumption (I’ll save that for another day).

And if eating badly – by which I mean highly processed foods like white flour and sugar – causes early puberty in girls, why would this be? Maybe it’s purely evolution. The obese die younger - “excess body weight is associated with increase risk of death”  (surely risk of death is 100%? Even if you’re paleo? Nevermind).

Either way, you don’t need to wait until the science is fully formed before you can start seeing some fairly surprising trends that have roots in bad nutrition. And where does it end? 26 year old grandmothers in Rotherham. That’s evolution for you.

Bread people from Rico Shen

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