03 Mar Childhood Onset of Puberty and Parental Height Linked
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Yehuda Limony, MD, MSc
Pediatric Endocrinology Unit
Faculty of Health Sciences
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Clalit Health Services
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: The variability of the onset age of puberty is the subject of many studies in numerous disciplines; nonetheless, the timing of puberty remains an enigma. The conventional paradigm is that the time of onset of puberty is genetically determined even though genome-wide association studies explain only a very low percentage of the physiologic variability. It is commonly believed, therefore, that many environmental factors interfere with the genetics of timing of puberty.
On the other hand, children grow toward an adult height that is the standardized average of parents’ height called “target height”. That is why children are usually similar in height to parents. This targeted growth process is evident especially in children whose height percentile in childhood is different from their target height percentile (we called this difference the “height gap”). It is known that the timing of puberty is associated with adult height: earlier puberty causes shorter adult height and vice versa. We hypothesized that the targeted process of growth involves adaptation of the age of onset of puberty in accordance with the height gap.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: This observational, retrospective study focused on groups of Israeli and Polish children. The Israeli group of 110 boys and 60 girls had been referred to an endocrinology clinic in southern Israel from 2004 to 2015 because of a “normal” but below average or short stature, or early or late puberty. The Polish group of 162 girls and 173 boys attended Wroclaw elementary schools. Researchers followed the height growth of boys from ages 8 to 18, and the girls until age 17. We have found in the present study that a correlation exists between the onset age of puberty and the height gap.
We found that the age a child reaches puberty is based on how the body responds to the child’s individual growth needs. When a ‘tall’ child seems to be exceeding a parent’s height, he may begin puberty earlier than his fellow peers to slow his growth and ensure that his final adult height is in the ‘target’ range. The opposite is also true: ‘short’ children don’t reach puberty until later than the population average because their bodies are giving them extra time to grow in order to reach a parent’s height.
A model that predicts the onset age of puberty has been created by the use of multivariable regression analysis (the independent variables are height gap and BMI).
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Having the ability to determine more accurately the normal ranges of the onset age of puberty will reduce the need for unnecessary diagnostic procedures and help doctors better explain the emergence of early or late-onset puberty to concerned parents
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Reliable and accurate models should probably be constructed separately for different ethnic groups and different environments because the effect of the height gap may change in different populations and environments.
Limony Y, Koziel S, Friger M. Association between the onset age of puberty and parental height. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0211334. Published 2019 Jan 25. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0211334
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