Several studies have noted an increase in such cases during the first months of the pandemic, suggesting a possible link between the virus and the cause of precocious puberty.
The study, presented at the 60th annual meeting of the European Society of Pediatric Endocrinology in Rome, suggests that this may not be directly related to the infection itself, but rather to adaptation to the virus.
Rather, it may be the time spent on smart devices during remote classes.
Researchers at Gazi University and Ankara City Hospital in Turkey exposed 18 immature female rats to light, mainly emitted by our LED screens, for short or long periods of time each day, and found that those rats that were “bathed” in blue light for longer periods of time showed signs of maturity sooner than others.
AFP/Scanpix photo/Rats in the laboratory
“We found that blue light, which is sufficient to alter melatonin levels, can also alter reproductive hormone levels and induce an earlier onset of puberty in our rat model.” Also, the longer the exposure, the earlier the onset of puberty,” says endocrinologist and lead author Aylin Kilinç Uğurlu of Gazi University.
This does not mean that other factors cannot also be important. The biology of puberty is incredibly complex, and there are many possibilities for the timing of puberty in humans.
“Since this is a rat study, we cannot be sure that these results will be replicated in children, but these data suggest that exposure to blue light can be considered a risk factor for earlier onset of puberty,” says AKUğurlu.
Statistically, puberty lasts from 9 to 14 years for boys and from 8 to 13 years for girls.
Early puberty in girls is defined as secondary sexual characteristics, appearing before the age of eight.
It is difficult to say how many girls fall into this category, as the prevalence of precocious puberty varies widely around the world.
The causes of the early hormone surge are also somewhat of a mystery. Apart from cancers or other disorders of the nervous system, the vast majority are idiopathic, meaning there is no obvious cause.
So when the number of girls diagnosed with idiopathic precocious puberty in Turkey jumped from 25 girls in 2019. in April up to 58 girls in 2020 In March, researchers were baffled and speculated that anything from high-calorie foods to the pandemic could be to blame.
Photo by Irmantas Gelūnas/BNS/PCR test
One intriguing possibility is the dramatic increase in smartphone use and the amount of time we spend daily exposed to blue light emitted by phones and tablets.
Evolution has shaped our bodies so that blue light is best for us when we are awake, during the day, not when we should be resting.
This connection can be so deeply ingrained in how we function that any serious disruption to it can seriously damage our health, most likely by disrupting levels of a hormone called melatonin.
Although it is generally thought of as a chemical that helps us fall asleep at night, suppressing melatonin during a crucial time in our development can also signal to the body that it is time to increase the hormones that prepare the body for puberty.
Using rats as a more convenient test subject, the research team proved that this hypothesis can be very reasonable.