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File this one under "You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up."

Numerous media outlets on Sunday picked up news of a study published Saturday by the venerable medical journal Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics' official journal. It reported U.S. boys appear to be maturing on average 6 months to 2 years earlier than commonly used norms. Analyzing the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics and testicular enlargement among more than 4,000 boys at their well-child pediatric visits, the research team concluded male maturity is mimicking the pattern reported by other studies for U.S. girls. The potential underlying cause of that accelerating maturity warrants, and I quote, "further exploration."

And since further exploration is the job of the news media, many couldn't resist linking the pattern to the modern food system and farming as the source of this societal woe.

Granted, many were measured in doing so, such as the Associated Press, which reported only that, "...theories range from higher levels of obesity to inactivity to chemicals in food and water, all which might interfere with normal hormone production. However, these theories are unproven."

But my favorite--favorite in a sad and wearying sense--is this one, from Digital Journal, headlined "Early puberty in boys may be linked to American food supply." The self-proclaimed "global digital media network with 40,000+ content creators in 200 countries around the world, [reaching] an audience of millions of monthly visitors," claims environmental factors and obesity were identified as possible causes, including "the past...use of hormones in the food supply." As to be expected, that kind of "further exploration" of the issue brought out the loyal conspiracy commentator corps, blaming corporate take-over of food, greedy cattle farmers injecting their cattle with hormones and, naturally, Monsanto.

They all were apparently as oblivious to reading the original Pediatrics study as was Digital Journal author and "digital journalist" Greata McClain. The Pediatrics authors specificially cautioned readers...

  • "This study was designed to report only physical changes, and not hormonal or other changes."
  • “Our data do not allow for an analysis of the possible underlying mechanisms of these observed decreases in the apparent age of onset of secondary sexual characteristics as assessed by physical examination.
  • "Our findings are somewhat surprising," given that some of those very theoretical causes of early puberty in girls are in fact, not associated with the same effect in boys and may, in fact, actually delay puberty in boys.

But the best part of this good and ethical media reporting is its link to the source which McClain chooses to rely upon, rather than reading past the abstract of the Pediatrics study: This one, from Livestrong media, "THE EFFECT OF GROWTH HORMONES IN FOOD."

If that didn't just make your beautiful-irony detector go off, you've been asleep for the past couple of weeks.

Lance Armstrong's foundation gives dietary adviceLivestrong.com, the "definitive destination for those who want to build their own healthy living success story, [which believes] that everyone should feel empowered through food, fitness, and inspiration to pursue their best life [by] eating well...." is, indeed, the same Livestrong Foundation brand developed by cancer survivor, cyclist and seven-time Tour de France world cycling champion Lance Armstrong. Well, make that former seven-time Tour de France world cycling champion, since the International Cycling Union just stripped Armstrong of those titles for running, in the words of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, “the most sophisticated doping program in sports history.”

Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Oakley and other sponsors have begun dumping their support of the Livestrong founder (who, for the record, maintains his innocence, noting he's never failed a drug test) as that 1,000-page ASADA report accuses cancer's comeback kid of not only using himself, but of leaning on other team members to use, a list of banned substances that included...

  • Erythropoietin, a hormone that boosts red-blood cell production and not only risks strokes and heart attack but, FDA warns, can increase the risk of cancer recurring in patients.
  • Cortisone and other corticosteroids, hormones whose abuse are linked to cancer, including the testicular brand that struck Armstrong.
  • Testosterone, a hormone, the over-use of which is also linked to cancer and which contributes to the beginning of puberty in young boys.

You can't make this stuff up.