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Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health


PURPOSE: To examine whether there is an association between early menarche and factors including BMI and dietary intake of calcium, phosphorus, total fat, fiber, and fatty acids, using data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III).METHODS: Secondary analysis of NHANES III (2001-2002) interview and examination data on a total of 640 subjects, aged between 12 and 16 years, who had not used hormonal contraception prior to menarche. Early menarche was defined as the first period occurring prior to age 12. Nutritional information was taken from the individual foods files on the interview sections of the NHANES III data.RESULTS. We found negative associations between early menarche and daily tetradecanoic acid intake (p-value = .0263), White (non-Hispanic) race/ethnicity (p-value = .0025), and subject age of 12 (p-value = .0058) and 13 (p-value = .0025). Higher BMI acted as a significant effect modifier favoring early menarche among non-Hispanic Black participants. No association was found between early menarche and intake of calcium, phosphorus, total fat, free fatty acids other than tetradecanoic, or fiber.CONCLUSIONS. Dietary intake of one saturated fatty acid, tetradecanoic (myristic), was found to predict early menarche, as were age and race/ethnicity. Further investigation is warranted into dietary intake of myristic acid and its relationship to reproductive development. Higher BMI's effect of strengthening the association between Black, non-Hispanic race and early menarche supports the need for targeting public health education on nutrition and exercise on this minority group.


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Date of Submission

June 2008