Lee said that while this study gives some indication that puberty works differently in boys and girls, it also means that we know less about what the possible impact might be on boys, or what the impact might be if obesity trends continue and girls, already ahead when it comes to puberty, move even further ahead of their males counterparts at the same ages.
All this study does, she said, is "It confirms that obesity has effects on children's growth and development for both genders."
Several researchers noted that early puberty has been shown to have an effect on fertility, and having more sex hormones may have an impact on future cancer risks.
Tom Baranowski, a professor of pediatrics specializing in behavioral nutrition at the Baylor College of Medicine, explained that the problem may come for boys who hit puberty earlier than their peers rather than those who see it delayed.
"The fear has been that the boys who experience puberty earlier would not have peers they could bounce their experience off of," he said. "They're forced into probably doing upwards comparisons. There's a risk that they run of running into children we might not prefer that they talk to."
Explaining exactly how obesity affects puberty may be far off, but one benefit of the study, Lee said, is it alerts parents to more immediate effects of obesity, rather than the further off risks like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which may appear to be more abstract.
"I think the fact that obesity could affect how they currently grow and develop could be of greater concern to parents because that affects them in the short term," she said.