We’re all familiar with the idea of “beer bellies,” but your love of a cold one with the boys could be affecting your body in another way. Apparently beer afficionados have one more thing to worry about: man boobs, or gynaecomastia, as they’re officially known.
It turns out the hops present in india pale ale (IPA) beers have powerful estrogenic activity. The hops naturally contain super strong phytoestrogens. In our bodies, these plant-based molecules behave similarly to the estrogen hormones our bodies produce.
Estrogen is primarily a female sex hormone secreted by the ovaries to prepare for fertilization and gestation. In fact, plant-based phytoestrogens are so similar to the ones our bodies produce, they are actually sometimes prescribed to help people sleep and to reduce the side effects of menopause (such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness).
Studies have shown that phytoestrogens affect breast tissue. There are claims that phytoestrogens enhance breast development. Many cosmetic and supplement companies advertise their products to increase breast size due to phytoestrogens.
You find phytoestrogens pretty much everywhere, including coffee, and they’re good for you. Health benefits include a lowered risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. However they also contribute to man boobs and also what’s known as “brewer’s droop.” This refers to the erectile dysfunction many men experience after drinking too much.
With hoppy beers very much in vogue, we could be seeing a growing number of men with ‘moobs’.
However, specialists say the risk of growing man boobs is relatively low, as phytoestrogens are a lot weaker than actual estrogen. In fact, phytoestrogens appear to be between 100 and 1,000 times less effective than natural hormones. But, of course, the difference between medicine and poison is usually dosage, so avoid consuming in large quantities. In other words, enjoy that IPA, but drink responsibly.