Children and young people who regularly consume soft drinks have an increased risk of being overweight and various diseases associated with it. But soft drinks also ensure that young girls get their first menstrual period earlier than their peers who do not drink soft drinks. This also increases the risk of developing breast cancer later. Researchers have succeeded in deciphering the underlying mechanisms.
Soft drinks increase breast cancer risk
Young girls who consume more than one and a half servings of soft drinks per week have their first menstrual period on average almost three months earlier than their peers.
At the same time, increased soft drink consumption not only increases the risk of being overweight but also of breast cancer. But even if the first period occurs a year earlier, the risk of breast cancer increases by 5 percent and by another 5 percent for each additional year premature.
Early menstrual bleeding from soft drinks
Prof. Karin Michels and her team at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, analyzed the data of more than 5,500 girls between the ages of nine and fourteen.
In addition to the birth weight and the BMI (body mass index, ratio of body mass to weight), the data included drinking and eating habits as well as information on the living conditions (meals in the family circle, family relationships, etc.).
Prof. Michels and her colleagues found that, independently of the other factors, soft drink consumption can influence the onset of the first menstrual period.
Soft drinks make periods come early
It was now investigated to what extent sugary soft drinks, soft drinks sweetened with sweeteners, and fruit juices can influence the arrival of the first period.
Fruit juices and drinks sweetened with sweeteners apparently had no influence here. The premature onset of menstrual bleeding could only be associated with sweetened soft drinks.
But it’s not the total amount of sugar that young girls consume when it comes to their first period that matters. According to the study, only sugar intake in the form of soft drinks had the described effect.
More sex hormones through soft drinks
Due to the added sugar, the researchers explain, soft drinks have a higher glycemic index than, for example, fructose. Their consumption, therefore, causes the insulin level in the body to skyrocket particularly rapidly.
An increased insulin level in turn stimulates the production of sex hormones. Major changes in the sex hormone balance can lead to an early onset of the period.
The intake of caffeine, for example in cola drinks, is also associated with a premature period. However, Prof. Michels and her team expressly emphasize the importance of sugary soft drinks in this context.