Besides sports, beer is a universal love for men around the world, uniting bros in the spirit of alcohol and a good time. It’s the perfect match for a ball game, boys’ night out, or just chilling at home on the couch – as a matter of fact, I really can’t think of many situations in life that can’t be improved by beer.
Alas, regular imbibing doesn’t come without it’s drawbacks. The downsides of beer are well known to all regular drinkers, from the sometimes embarrassing lack of inhibitions to the formation of a full-grown beer belly.
However, some beer-loving men are now noticing a disturbing new side effect: gynecomastia. Commonly known as “man boobs,” this condition causes the growth and development of male breast tissue, leading to a feminine physique that few men appreciate.
It’s certainly not a reality most guys even want to think about, but modern science is making a compelling case. Could your favorite beverage really lead to the growth of breasts?
What Is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is a medical disorder that leads to the swelling and growth of breast tissue in men and boys of all ages. In general, it’s caused by a hormonal imbalance in the body involving estrogen and testosterone.
Gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts and may resolve itself over time. This condition can arise naturally due to hormone shifts in newborns, boys going through puberty, and aging men.
Some changes to breast tissue can be related to diet and exercise as well; a poor diet and lack of movement can affect hormone production within the body.
While awkward and embarrassing, gynecomastia isn’t dangerous or life-threatening. Some men report tenderness and swelling, but most have no side effects outside of tissue growth.
Gynecomastia generally resolves without medical intervention, by a change in diet or by using natural treatments, but surgery or hormone treatments may be an option in severe cases.
Gynecomastia and Beer
So, if gynecomastia is caused by a hormone imbalance, what’s this got to do with beer?
Believe it or not, some forms of beer play host to the hormones that can contribute to breast development. As most beer-drinkers know, hops, or the flowers of the hop plant, are used in the brewing process to give some forms of beer a sharp, bitter aftertaste.
Common in stronger craft beers like India Pale Ales, hops have long been seen as nothing more than a way to add body and flavor to a beer. Until now, that is.
Recent research has discovered that hops contain phytoestrogen, a form of plant estrogen. While generally not harmful, this substance has a structural likeness to human estrogen, creating similar side effects when consumed in high quantities.
In fact, phytoestrogen is often used in products aimed at women, including sleep aids and drugs designed to minimize the side effects of menopause.
Not convinced? Phytoestrogen is also linked to the phenomenon known as “brewer’s droop” (and the less than flattering “whiskey dick”), or the impotence that comes with excessive imbibing. With high levels of plant estrogen in the system, achieving or maintaining an erection becomes something of a challenge.
How Can I Avoid Man Boobs?
If you’re among the majority of men who would rather not grow breasts, you’re probably wondering if you’ll have to pour your entire stash of craft beer down the drain. However, this may be a drastic step.
Unless you’re enjoying numerous IPA’s every night over a long period of time, you’re unlikely to see signs of impending womanhood. However, if you want to play it safe, these tips can help you reduce your risk of gynecomastia:
- Eat a balanced diet high in protein and fiber
- Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes a day three times a week
- Limit ingestion of foods linked to hormone production, like hoppy beers
- Avoid steroid use
- Limit weight gain
- Stop smoking (this includes marijuana)
It may be a crushing blow to learn that your favorite pastime is the cause of unsightly man boobs, but that’s no reason to surrender your love of beer for good. By keeping the hoppy beers to a minimum, you can continue to enjoy a guys’ night out without fear.
Mark McIntyre is the founder of MaleHealthReview.com and acts as it’s chief contributor. He is a fitness trainer and avid mountain biker who also enjoys camping, hiking and fishing. Besides managing Male Health Review, Mark is also a guest columnist for several blogs related to men’s health. More about this author…