Eating too much high-calorie and “empty calorie” food could cause early puberty in children, a doctor said.
Lin Chih-wei (林智葳), a doctor at Dr Chu’s Family Clinic in New Taipei City’s Lujhou District (蘆洲), on Thursday wrote about the issue on Facebook following reports that a skin cream product containing banned estrogens might have led to the onset of early puberty in children.
Endocrine disruptors — chemicals that can mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones — are present in some containers, foods and dietary supplements, and the long-term use of products containing these chemicals can harm the body, including causing precocious puberty, he said.
When girls younger than eight and boys younger than nine undergo precocious puberty, their bodies develop adult features too early, which can lead to rapid growth spurts that might make them taller than children of the same age, but lead to the premature closure of growth plates that could cause them to be shorter than average adults, he said.
The condition could also cause girls to develop breasts early, he added.
Parents should consult with a pediatrician if they notice abnormal changes, Lin said, adding that the incidence of early puberty among girls is about 20 times that of boys.
Excessive intake of high-calorie foods, high-fat foods and being overweight are considered risk factors for precocious puberty, as long-term high calorie intake is associated with deteriorating insulin sensitivity and might disrupt the endocrine system, he said.
In Taiwan, the use of estrogens is banned in cosmetics, as although they might have anti-inflammatory effects, they can cause other adverse side effects, he said, adding that people should check the ingredients of cosmetics before purchasing them.
Excessive intake of certain natural foods might also cause adverse effects, such as chicken skin, chicken butt, yam, royal jelly, soy milk, animal intestines and deep sea fish, he said.
Before purchasing traditional herbal remedies for their children, parents should seek advice from a licensed Chinese medicine doctor, Lin said, adding that they should not buy random products from stores.
In addition, many disposable containers used for takeout food might release plasticizers such as di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate when exposed to high temperatures, and long-term intake of the substance might harm the health of adults and children, he said.
Lin advised people to choose plastic containers made of No. 5 plastics — polypropylene — which can withstand longer exposure to acidic or alkaline substances, and can resist temperatures up to 140°C.
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