They go by many names— manmary glands, moobs, chesticles, etc.— but they all translate into the same problem in men: enlarged breasts.
Known medically as gynecomastia, swollen breast tissue in men is, to say the least, an uncomfortable situation. It is a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and testosterone in the body that can impact men and boys alike with pain, tenderness and even nipple discharge (not to mention stares). Though the reason for these imbalances can vary based on the age of the patient—infants, young boys and older males all have different causes—there is a new school of thought that this issue in men may be due to a lifestyle factor: drinking India pale ales (IPAs).
The Science Behind the Relationship Between Beer and Boobs
IPAs, like many other types of beer, are made with hops. Hops are a cone-shaped flower, and the female hop plants are used to add a bitter flavor to beer and also act as a preservative because of their antibacterial properties and acidic qualities. IPAs are particularly high in hops.
Along with the benefits they provide beer, they also serve several functions in herbal medicine, including:
- Acting as natural source of phytoestrogen—an estrogen compound found in plants—to treat endometriosis and menopause
- Inducing sleep, especially in patients who have difficulty sleeping
- Promoting urine flow as a diuretic
- Providing pain relief
So, with all of these wonderful benefits, what downside could hops possibly have?
Well, remember that point about phytoestrogen? That’s the alleged culprit for swelled breasts in men as well as what experts call “brewers droop”, known to the rest of us as the erectile dysfunction men can experience after drinking excessively. Phytoestrogen is what’s known as dietary estrogen because it’s an estrogen-like chemical that is consumed and not produced by the endocrine system. When digested, the phytoestrogen binds to estrogen receptors in the body in place of the estrogen the body produces naturally.
So, though it may have some benefits for women, it’s possible it’s resulting in the hormonal imbalance that may give men a fuller bust than they bargained for.
Some Scientists Call Shenanigans on Hops Causing Man Boobs
An article focused on the subject of IPA and enlarged breasts in men offers a counterargument to this claim by a professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Illinois, Richard van Breemen. Dr. van Breemen states:
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.
That said, the jury seems to be out on the issue, at least for the moment. There are a number of studies that examine the different roles phytoestrogen can play in the human anatomy, both good and bad.
How to Combat Gynecomastia
In many cases, this issue clears up on its own. However, patients who can’t seem to rid themselves of their newfound breasts have a few options to consider:
- Exercising to increase the production of testosterone in the body
- Indulging in green eating with foods like kale, broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts
- Reducing the amount of alcohol, carbs and sugars consumed
- Speaking to a physician about possible medications to treat the condition
Should all other methods of treatment fail, some procedures may be recommended to remove the fat and/or the tissue from the breast, including:
- Liposuction and/or excision to remove the fat and/or tissue
- Mastectomy to surgically remove all of the tissue from the breast
- Smartlipo, which uses laser technology to rupture fat cell membranes and ultimately tighten the skin through collagen production
Man boobs don’t have to be your reality, no matter how many IPAs you drink (that does not mean you should drink excessively). Speak to a physician about how to bust up your bust if it doesn’t resolve on its own.