Is Beer Giving You Man Boobs?
For so many years, beer has been the constant companion to men. In fact, for some men the act drinking of beer is a rite of passage into adulthood. Despite the many laws against underage drinking, teenage boys still find ways to get beer during parties and gatherings with friends.
But is beer actually turning men less masculine? Is it possible that beer, the macho drink, is actually making men into a woman’s image by causing the enlargement of their breasts?
This is a serious allegation that concerns millions of men around the world. But it can be investigated from 2 different angles. One allegation is about the estrogen, while the other is about obesity.
What are Man Boobs?
Let’s first understand what man boobs really are. Man boobs, or male breast enlargement, is technically a hormonal condition. It’s called gynecomastia, and when levels of testosterone and estrogen are not properly balanced in men it can lead to male breast enlargement.
It’s very common in male life stages when hormonal changes occur. So it happens a lot with babies, with boys during puberty, and for men entering their mid-40s when their testosterone levels start to drop off.
However, man boobs may also refer to pseudogynecomastia. This time, the culprit is the buildup of fat around the nipple area, which gives the impression of enlarged breasts. Men tend to build up fat around the waist, while women are more predisposed to store the excess fat in their hips and thighs.
But in some cases, men may also store fat cells in their chest area which causes their breast to enlarge.
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We don’t have to belabor just how embarrassing this situation can be. Men with this condition can be teased mercilessly and they’re often the butt of jokes. They’re no longer at ease removing their shirts on the beach, and sexual intimacy can also lead to awkward situations.
The Allegation: Some Beers Contain Estrogen that Causes Man Boobs
In 2015, a rumor spread online about how beer can be the cause of enlarged breasts in men. It was traced back to an Internet article featuring Stephen Harrod Buhner, who is an herbalist and author. He had published a book in 1998 entitled Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, and in the book he alleged that hoppy beers known as IPAs (India Pale Ale) causes man boobs.
According to Buhner, there’s a natural compound in hops that can cause men to develop enlarged breasts. It is also this same compound that’s the cause of the temporary impotence after drinking too much, which he refers to as “brewer’s droop”.
Most beers have hops in one form or another. But in IPA beer, it is quite a dominant ingredient. India Pale Ale beers have been produced for more than 175 years now. Hops are the female flowers of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus), and it’s what gives IPA its characteristic bitter taste. In the craft-beer niche, IPAs are the top bestsellers, as they account for about 25% of all craft beer sales in the US.
Historically, hops have been used to treat conditions like insomnia even before the 1500s. It has also been the source of phytoestrogen that can help with menopause and endometriosis among women. (Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects more than 6 million women, and tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus to grow outside the uterus.)
Supposedly, it’s also been used by monks to suppress sexual desire, since they were required to be celibate.
The Truth about IPA
It is true that the hops in beer do contain a plant chemical that’s very similar to the hormone estrogen known as phytoestrogen. According to Richard van Breemen, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy in Chicago, that’s actually accurate.
According to van Breemen: “It’s true that there is a minute quantity of [the estrogen-like compound, known as] 8-prenylnaringenin, in hops, and there ought to be a trace of it in beer, but I would say the levels are too low to function as a [hormone] disruptor.”
It is also true that this compound can affect human hormonal system, as some studies have shown. In fact, van Breemen and his peers are investigating a supplement derived from hops, which can act as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy.
The main difference is that in beer, and even in IPAs, the amount of this compound is very little. Van Breemen contends that there’s just not enough of it to affect male sexual function.
Beer and the Liver
While the hops and the estrogen compound itself may be innocuous in IPA, one problem with alcohol is that it damages the liver. Alcohol-induced liver disease is a major cause of death and illness in the US.
In addition, alcohol also permanently changes the liver cell structure, which in turn impairs the liver’s ability to metabolize fats. The process of metabolizing fat in the body (burning off fat) is what causes proper weight loss.
And that’s a big problem with beer in general. Often, they’re like potato chips. For men, a single drink hardly suffices. Many men indulge in consuming copious amounts of beer in one sitting, and that can result in long-term damage to the liver that can prevent you from burning off fat properly.
Alcohol and Obesity
We’ve already established that man boobs can be caused by being overweight, and a man’s body may sometimes store excess fat in the chest area. Alcohol consumption may also be a factor in weight gain, so indirectly it can also cause man boobs.
- Excess calories. Not everyone is aware of just how many calories there are in alcoholic beverages. You actually get 7 calories per gram of alcohol. A regular 12-ounce beer has 153 calories, so if you drink a 6-pack you finish off 918 calories. Liqueurs have 165 calories, a glass of sweet wine has 165, a margarita has 168, and a whiskey sour has 160. And the worst of all is the piña colada, which packs a wallop at 490 calories per serving.
According to the UK Department of Health, a regular drinker who consumes just 4 pints of beer each week consumes just as many calories as a person who eats an extra 221 donuts in a given year.
A glass of wine comes with the same calorie content as 4 cookies. A pint of lager is like eating a slice of pizza, in terms of calorie content.
Remember, you actually need to consume fewer calories than the amount you burn off during the day if you want to lose weight. To lose 1 pound a week, every day you need to consume about 500 fewer calories than you use up. And that becomes impossible if you’re consuming 918 calories with your 6-pack of beer.
- Fat-sparing. Your body burns off fuel to use up as energy. The problem with alcohol is that the body tends to burn it off first ahead of your fat cells. So if you keep on drinking, the alcohol in your body becomes the main energy source, and your body doesn’t burn off the fat when you’re trying to lose weight.
- Boosted appetites. Even moderate drinking has been suspected of causing obesity, and that’s because in modest amounts alcohol stimulates the appetites. It also loosens your grip on your self-control, which adds to eating more food and weight gain.
Drinking alcohol depletes your glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, so when you drink you may start craving carbs. Alcohol is also a diuretic so you urinate more frequently. This leads to lower sodium levels, which explains why salty carbohydrate-like foods like chips and dips are so popular with drinkers. These really boost your calorie intake which makes weight loss so difficult when you’re a regular drinker.
Finally, in the morning you may also crave unhealthy foods to combat your hangover. The end result is more calories that make weight loss virtually impossible.
Final Verdict: Don’t Drink Alcohol!
So let’s recap:
It’s not true that the hops in certain types of beer can directly cause man boobs. There’s just too little of it too matter.
What is true is that alcohol consumption can have several ways of making you gain weight, which can then lead to man boobs. It can also keep you from losing weight, so you may fail getting rid of those man boobs through diet and exercise.
These ways include damaging your liver which keeps you from burning off fat efficiently. It also involves excess calorie intake that messes up your calorie balance. It makes it much more difficult to keep your calorie consumption less than your calorie usage.
The alcohol itself is packed with calories, and it stimulates your appetite so your calorie intake is increased through your diet as well.
So what’s to be done? For one, stop drinking for the moment. Then seriously watch what you eat so you limit your calorie consumption. Then you need to work out vigorously and regularly, so that you use your consumed calories and your body burns off fat cells to compensate. Help yourself out with the proper supplements, and you may just get rid of those man boobs once and for all.