FLORENCE, Italy, Jun 28, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Italian researchers said Monday they've discovered watching too much television could accelerate puberty in children.
"This is statistically a very significant result," said researcher Roberto Salti, of the Mayer Hospital at the University of Florence. "It suggests that an excess of television (viewing) can modify some hormones."
The BBC reported children denied access to television for just one week experienced a 30 percent jump in their melatonin levels -- the hormone thought to prevent the early onset of puberty.
In humans, melatonin regulates the body's internal clock -- levels are lowest during daylight hours, but peak during the evening around 8 p.m. as the body prepares for sleep.
The scientists hypothesize that light and radiation from television screens and, perhaps, computer screens disturbs the production of melatonin.
Precocious puberty - during which children show signs of puberty earlier than the normal ages of 10 for girls and 11 1/2 for boys -- has increased worldwide during the last 30 years.
Copyright 2004 by United Press International.