So many of our young men are growing breasts these days that the word “moobs”—short for “man boobs”—has entered popular vernacular. While the word itself sounds amusing, it’s a heartbreaking trend for young men and their families, and a booming business for surgeons who specialize in breast reduction surgery.
Why is this happening? The New York Times and other major media report that while no one knows for sure why gynecomastia (the technical term for “moobs”) is on the rise, many claim that environmental estrogens found in plastics, pesticides, drinking water, and supermarket meats and poultry should take the blame. Widely noted is the fact that in the past “moobs” rarely were found outside the bodybuilding community, where steroid use led to what the men liked to call “bitch tits.” Today, however, they are appearing in fit and unfit young men alike.
Many of these boys and men have increased fatty tissue because they are overweight or obese. Although this gives the appearance of “moobs,” it is not the same as true enlargement and is diagnosed as pseudogynecomastia. Doctors also report that fifty percent or more of boys experience at least periods of hormonal imbalance where “moobs” appear but then flatten out in a few months. True gynecomastia is a more long-term condition, and it can occur in boys and men who are underweight, overweight and normal weight.
Why is this happening? Environmental estrogens are surely a factor. But so is soy. Young men at the highest risk are those who were given soy infant formula during infancy and/or who regularly drank soy milk during their childhoods and teenage years. Such boys are not only at risk for “moobs” but may show other estrogenic signs as well, including lowered quantity and quality of sperm, undersized genitals, undescended testicles, and other reproductive system problems.
Scientists first linked phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) with lowered sperm count and other reproductive problems in the 1940s when they diagnosed clover disease in sheep. Red clover contains a type of phytoestrogen known as coumestans, which are similar in their effect to the isoflavones found in soybeans. When sheep graze heavily on red clover, they can develop red clover disease, which causes normal male sheep to became infertile and castrated males—called wethers—to experience teat enlargement and nipple discharge. Rodents, primates, and humans experience similar feminizing effects if their reproductive development is disrupted by estrogens that either interact directly with the testes or that affect plasma gonadotrophin or sex hormone concentrations.
Soy industry spokespeople tend to downplay side effects from estrogenization and testosterone-lowering by claiming phytoestrogen consumption to be protective against prostate cancer and atherosclerosis. Although the possibility that soy foods or supplements could prevent these deadly conditions makes headlines, few men hear that the downside is demasculinization, which in some men manifests as gynecomastia.
Although many studies link soy consumption to masculinization, few have looked at “moobs.” A study for the National Cancer Institute completed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, however, reported that soy-eating men experienced “nipple discharge, breast enlargement and slight decreases in testosterone.” Although the researchers concluded these side effects were inconsequential and few men would see visible “testicle shrinkage” or “massive breast enlargement,” the bottom line is the subjects of the study showed feminization from high soy phytoestrogen consumption. Whether their “moobs” came in large or small, their development signified estrogenization, lowered testosterone levels and overall hormonal imbalance.
Can gynecomastia be reversed naturally? It depends, but cleaning up the environment and the diet to remove environmental and phytoestrogens are critical first steps. Many clinicians such as Kim Schuette of Biodynamic Wellness in Solana Beach, California, report reversals (as described below) just from eliminating soy milk and soy foods from the diet.
That’s the good news, but sadly not all boys will be so fortunate. In addition to the obvious factors of dose and duration, a key issue is timing. The “windows of vulnerability” for phytoestrogen exposure is wide, and goes from conception to adulthood. High risk windows are in utero, infancy, shortly before puberty, and during puberty. That said, men remain at some risk for “moobs” throughout their lives and so would do well to take it easy on the soy.
For further discussion and full references, visit Dr. Kaayla’s “Recovering from Modern Diets” blog at westonaprice.com.
EPIDEMIC OF GYNECOMASTIA
The number of boys and men challenged with gynecomastia (aka “man boobs”) is on the rise. It is thought that one reason for the increase in gynecomastia is the use of certain antipsychotic medications. This week I came across an article regarding the prescription drug Risperdal. Risperdal is an antipsychotic drug commonly used for schizophrenia. It is also being prescribed for bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sleep disorders and anxiety. As a prolactin-raising drug (which has a dopamine-blocking action) it can considerably increase levels of the pituitary hormone prolactin. One of its side effects is excessive breast development in men and in some cases galactorrhea (abnormal lactation).
Dopamine-blocking medications along with the pervasive use of soy isolates in commercial foods are creating a near epidemic in America of gynecomastia among boys and men. A few years ago I worked with a mother of two boys, ages twelve and fourteen, suffering with gynecomastia. Before using any iodine or other remedies to address the probable hormonal imbalance in both boys, I asked their mother to remove all soy from the diet. As she began to read labels she was shocked to learn how much soy her sons were consuming daily. Close to 75 percent of all processed foods in this country contain some form of soy protein.
Within two weeks both boys’ breasts had returned to normal sizes. We have seen similar positive results in those struggling with ADHD, anxiety and bipolar disorder when the GAPS Diet was implemented. Wouldn’t it be great if all products containing soy were required to have a warning label stating that soy can alter hormones in girls, women, boys and men? And wouldn’t it be in the best interest of those struggling with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety to be introduced first to the healing principles of the GAPS Diet prior to being prescribed strong medications with a multitude of side effects? It is critical that the information so well taught by the WAPF spread to the general public.
The same boys with the man boobs had an older sister who had decided to become vegetarian. The parents observed that almost overnight her bust size doubled. They brought her into my office in order for us to talk her off the vegetarian cliff. One month after removing tofu, soy bars and soy milk from her diet and adding wild fish, raw cheese and eggs her cup size went from an E to a C.
Kim Schuette, CN, Biodynamic Wellness, San Diego, California
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2015🖨️ Print post
I too believed that soy was good for me. Back in 1998-1999 I had lost 110lbs on weight watchers and in the meetings was incouraged to try soy burgers and soy milk in place of others proteins. So that was my main protein source other than tuna ( know found out that it also had soy in it). I eventually was diagnosed with hypothyroidism after eating so much soy. I have seven siblings and they truely didn’t eat as much or if any soy like I did. I have been struggling for 15 years trying to lose the 110lbs again after gaining it all back and more since stopping the soy 14 years ago. I was also diagnosed with very low progesterone due to the high levels of estrogen that knocks out the progesterone which allows you to carry a pregnancy. Unfortunately I was unable to have children due to this. I still struggle today 8/20/2015 with getting everything balanced so the weight can come off for health reasons now. I have been reading about how soy has played a part in controlling hormones for 15 years and it makes me sick that the FDA allows it to continue. It very sad that people choose to ignore this and don’t take a stand as to how bad soy is.
My husband still eats at Mc Donalds and has developed Moobs and will not stop it makes me sick knowing that something more can happen.
Andrew Fraser says
Hey Cheryln – a year ago a company called Jeunesse in conjunction with Mark Macdonald released a product called Zen. Research Zen Project 8 – it might help you with the issues you are talking about. You can only get the product through one of their agents though but feel free to contact me if you need more info.
miss d says
I’m a male to female transgender. I eat eight pounds of tofu a week maybe it will make breast bigger and improve my figure. As for health issues i don’t see any. My health has never been better. I’m 56 and have more energy and endurance than men more then half my age. Soy rules.
rachel goodkind says
Soy has sadly been GMO’d and is fed to most farm animals. The only soy I would
recommend eating is fermented soy–Tempeh, miso, natto. Soy has ER-Beta estrogens, proven to lower estrogen in our body, not raise it. Proven to reduce and help women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer, among other benefits. If soy is stimulating to breast tissue than Asian women would have larger breasts than the heavy meat and dairy eating countries like the U.S. and scandinavian, finland and denmark women. American women’s breasts are massive and growing.
I am vegan and do not believe in eating a lot of soy, but it is a personal choice. Ironically, it is meat, dairy, and fish that have ER-Alpha estrogen in them, ER-Alpha is the promoter of increased estrogens. Just because some humans enjoy eating “pastured” animals does not mean they are “hormone-free”. They are not!. ALL animals have hormones. And, when cows produce milk, their hormones are up to 30x higher than when not pregnant. No human needs any hormones from non-human animals!. Moobs are clearly created through ingestion of animal hormones and saturated fats of all kinds, It is true that most farm animals are fattened on soy and corn, but they also are selectively bred, receive drugs, steroids and antibiotics as well. peace.
Well “miss d”, we are trying to have a serious conversation here about real health concerns. Please find a better outlet for your silliness.
Susan S says
Can you please share the name of study you reference here? This is an important subject, and I’d like to take a closer look. Thank you in advance –
“A study for the National Cancer Institute completed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, however, reported that soy-eating men experienced “nipple discharge, breast enlargement and slight decreases in testosterone.”
I would also like to read this study to see the amounts of soy intake etc. Why is it not referenced?
Jon H. Old says
I read, in the late 70’s or early 80’s a British paper that flat out said Soy was not fit for Humans.
I don’t understand why flax isn’t getting any attention on this website since it has more phytoestrogen content than soy and is being so heavily promoted as a healthy food and oil. http://www.totalityofbeing.com/FramelessPages/Articles/estrogeninfoods.html
I’m with Diane. There are several other sources of phytoestrogens, flax having 2-3 times higher than soy.
Tofu is a common component of the diet of Asians. Why does it seem to be completely safe for them? Also, I would like to hear more about this epidemic of breast reductions due to gynecomastia. This is the first time I hear of it and don’t know anyone afflicted by it.
I’m going to have to disagree with all these studies. I’ve been living in Indonesia for 5 years eating tofu and I’m ripped (very lean muscular build). Same with my Indonesian wife’s father.
If men are getting fat and growing boobs it is more likely due to no exercise, a lot of processed foods in the diet, and/or bad genetics.
Bad genetics is a tough subject for people who inherited bad genetics to accept. Denial and blaming a single food product probably feels safer, more inside the comfort zone.
“I gained 110lbs after my soy burger/soy milk diet. I can’t believe the FDA allows this.” What?! If you ever gain 100+ lbs for any reason it’s because you binge eat processed foods! Any other cause is virtually impossible.
You have a much bigger problem than soy to address if you can’t fit in the front door of wal mart.
So many soy studies are not valid because they were done using genetically modified soybeans, (80% of American soybean crops are GM), or using soy isolate, i.e. isolating the protein part of soy rather than consuming it whole. As we have found with gluten – isolating the protein part of the wheat and consuming too much of it, has caused huge health issues for many people.
The studies need to be redone with whole, organic, non-GM soybeans as nature designed for us to eat.
Population studies of Asian communities show soy as part of their diet to have many health benefits.