No one thinks sugary drinks are healthy, but research now tells us that they are more than just “unhealthy”; they are actually detrimental to our health and well-being. In addition to significant indicators linking sugary beverage consumption with diabetes and heart disease, Harvard researchers have also shown a link between sugary drinks and early-onset puberty. Sugary drinks are defined as a can or glass of soda, fruit drinks (this includes juice) or sweetened iced tea.

Sugary Drinks May Cause Girls to Start Puberty Earlier

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After evaluating the dietary habits of more than 5,500 girls between the ages of 9 and 16 to see if there was any connection between sugary drinks and the onset of a girl’s first menstrual cycle, researchers found the following:

  • Girls who consumed an average of 1.5 sugary drinks or more per day started their periods at age 12.8 years.
  • Girls who consumed an average of 2 or fewer sugary drinks each day started their periods at an average of 13 years of age.

While this may not seem like a significant difference, experts argue that it is. Women who start their periods younger are at higher risk for several health conditions, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes and even breast cancer.

It is thought that the glycemic effect (the spiking of blood sugar levels that need to be regulated and brought back to normal via insulin production) is the cause. When insulin production is consistently high, so are the levels of sex hormones. Researchers believe this cause and effect relationship between insulin and sex hormones is causing the early onset of menstruation.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It is one that researchers are paying increasing attention to when it comes to overall health and well-being, especially in regards to female reproduction and fertility. In fact, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the leading causes of female infertility, and insulin resistance is one of its signs and symptoms.

Karin Michels, ScD, PhD and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, led the research. Michels was quoted on hcplive.com saying, “Our study adds to increasing concern about the wide-spread consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children and adolescents in the USA and elsewhere. The main concern is about childhood obesity, but our study suggests that age of first menstruation (menarche) occurred earlier, independently of body mass index, among girls with the highest consumption of drinks sweetened with added sugar. These findings are important in the context of earlier puberty onset among girls, which has been observed in developed countries and for which the reason is largely unknown.”

Obesity is a serious issue. Childhood obesity has been named an epidemic in the United States and nutritionists agree that sugary drinks are a root cause for the condition. Those who are diagnosed as overweight or obese as children have a much harder time with weight management as adults. They are especially at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease. For women, the effects of early onset menstruation are even more frightening.

Women who start their periods one year earlier than average have a 5% higher risk for developing breast cancer. Of course, another obvious correlation with early onset menstruation is the risk for teenage pregnancy since the ability to menstruate is directly related to a woman’s ability to conceive. Finally, with the emerging connections between insulin resistance and infertility, we can’t help but wonder if higher consumption of sugary beverages will eventually be linked to higher rates of infertility.

That verdict is still out. In the meantime, we advise that parents and children make a conscientious effort to eat a healthy and well-rounded diet and to limit the intake of sugary beverages considerably. Water is always the best beverage of choice, and fruit-infused waters are always an option for those who find water boring. They can give you the flavor and sweetness you crave without all the empty sugar calories.

Are you surprised by the finding that sugary beverages have been linked to early puberty? We’d love to hear your opinion in the RRC comment box below.

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Many couples who struggle with infertility jump right to the conclusion that they need in-vitro fertilization (IVF). In most cases, there are several other treatment stops along the fertility treatment rail line. In fact, because of the costs involved, IVF is typically the last stop on the journey.

A Brief Overview of Oral and Injectable Fertility Medications

If you and your partner are having problems conceiving, a heart-to-heart with your OB/GYN is typically the first step. If you are in your 20s or early thirties (approaching 35), odds are she will recommend you try naturally for at least a year before jumping to the conclusion that one or both of you has fertility issues. If you are 35-years or older, you only want to wait about six months because time is unarguably of the essence.

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Once it is determined that you may, indeed, be experiencing fertility issues, there are several routes you can take. We always recommend getting a complete fertility workup. There is no point in spending time, energy and/or money on fertility treatments that may not work – depending on your condition. Knowing what the hurdles are will create a more concrete plan of action for your fertile future.

Two of the most common fertility treatments only require a prescription and assistance/monitoring by your OB/GYN. These include oral and injectable fertility medications.

Oral Fertility Medications

The most common oral fertility medications are clomiphene citrate (Clomid) and letrozole (Femara). Both work to enhance the production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which induces and/or improves the maturation and release of your egg(s). If this is a fertility treatment you pursue, your OB/GYN will write a prescription and you will take the pills orally for five days in a row, early in your menstrual cycle. In some cases you will be sent home to have intercourse as usual. In other cases, your doctor may monitor things more carefully and suggest timed sex to increase your chances of conceiving.

Because this is a hormone-based treatment, and it alters your body’s natural hormone production, side effects can range from headaches and mood swings to ovarian cysts and visual disturbances. Also, because oral fertility medications have the potential to stimulate more than one egg release at a time, the risk for twins is slightly higher (10% to 15%) than normal.

In most cases, if oral fertility meds are going to work, a woman will conceive within her first few ovulation cycles using the medication. Some couples opt to combine oral fertility medications with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) to increase their odds even further.

If oral fertility meds aren’t effective within three ovulatory cycles, you may be referred to a fertility specialist.

Injectable Fertility Medications

Injectable fertility medications are the next stop on the fertility treatment journey. Clinically called gonadotropin therapy, the injectable commercial names include Gonal-F, Follistim, Menopur and Bravelle. These injectable meds use follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or lutenizing hormone (LH). Injectable fertility meds are usually prescribed if it’s determined that you don’t ovulate on your own or if clomiphene citrate didn’t work for you.

Not surprisingly, injectable fertility meds are more potent than their oral counterparts. They are administered by you or a partner (your doctor may give you the first one and teach you how to administer the shots for yourself thereafter), either under the skin (subcutaneously) or into the muscle tissues (intramuscular). Once you start the injections, you will be monitored carefully via ultrasounds and blood work to evaluate follicular development. Since this is not a “starting point” for most couples, and the side effects are more powerful, injectable fertility meds are almost always paired with IUI to increase the chances of conception ASAP, thereby limiting the amount of time a woman undergoes the injections.

Side effects can be slightly more dramatic than those experienced with oral fertility medications. They include ovarian enlargement, abdominal bloating and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Injectable fertility meds often trigger the release of more than one egg, and this increases the chances of multiple births. For this reason, conscientious fertility clinics often stop a cycle of gonadotropin therapy if it is thought that triplets or higher orders of multiple births are a possibility. Multiple birth pregnancies are considered high-risk, and our goal is to produce healthy, full-term singleton births.

Have questions regarding infertility or whether or not oral or injectable fertility medications are right for you? Feel free to call RRC at 913.894.2323, or contact us online to learn more.

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Preventing Birth Defects – Steps to Take BEFORE Conception

March 3, 2015

Much of the information on how to prevent birth defects pertains to the period of time after a woman finds out she is pregnant. However, as more research is done on the causes of birth defects, medical experts and healthcare professionals are placing increasing emphasis on what women can do before they get pregnant in [...]

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Making the Diagnosis – 6 Common Infertility Tests

February 24, 2015

Do you suspect that you and your partner are having fertility issues? If so, your next step is to speak with your OB/GYN and get referrals to fertility specialists in your area. In most cases, we recommend couples see a fertility specialist if the woman is 34 or younger and has tried to conceive for [...]

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