Background: Early menarche has been linked to risk of several chronic diseases. Prospective research on whether the intake of soft drinks containing caffeine, a modulator of the female reproductive axis, is associated with risk of early menarche is sparse.
Objective: We examined the hypothesis that consumption of caffeinated soft drinks in childhood is associated with higher risk of early menarche.
Design: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study recruited and enrolled 2379 (1213 African American, 1166 Caucasian) girls aged 9-10 y (from Richmond, CA; Cincinnati, OH; and Washington, DC) and followed them for 10 y. After exclusions were made, there were 1988 girls in whom we examined prospective associations between consumption of caffeinated and noncaffeinated sugar- and artificially sweetened soft drinks and early menarche (defined as menarche age <11 y). We also examined associations between intakes of caffeine, sucrose, fructose, and aspartame and early menarche.
Results: Incident early menarche occurred in 165 (8.3%) of the girls. After adjustment for confounders and premenarcheal percentage body fat, greater consumption of caffeinated soft drinks was associated with a higher risk of early menarche (RR for 1 serving/d increment: 1.47; 95% CI: 1.22, 1.79). Consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks was also positively associated with risk of early menarche (RR for 1 serving/d increment: 1.43; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.88). Consumption of noncaffeinated soft drinks was not significantly associated with early menarche (RR for 1 serving/d increment: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.62, 1.25); nor was consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks (RR for 1 serving/d increment: 1.15; 95% CI: 0.95, 1.39). Consistent with the beverage findings, intakes of caffeine (RR for 1-SD increment: 1.22; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.37) and aspartame (RR for 1-SD increment: 1.20; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.31) were positively associated with risk of early menarche.
Conclusion: Consumption of caffeinated and artificially sweetened soft drinks was positively associated with risk of early menarche in a US cohort of African American and Caucasian girls.
Keywords: aspartame; caffeine; diet; epidemiology; puberty; sugar-sweetened beverages.
© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.