A lot of guys would no doubt consider beers and boobs to the perfect combo for a lad’s night out. Probably not if both those things belonged to them though.
Debate over whether a humble mug of suds can really contribute to gynaecomastia (man-boobs to me and you) has rumbled on for years.
It’s flared up again recently as it’s now been suggested that Indian Pale Ales in particular, favorite of so-called hipster pubs, might not be the best for your chest.
Yup,all those weird and wonderful craft beers might increase your street cred and palate, but according to some, possibly also your bra size.
There’s two sides to every story though so before you spit out your Lemongrass Ticklestick IPA, know that on the flipside plenty argue it’s ridiculous to blame fancy amber nectars.
So that’s the truth? It’s a real head scratcher – or in this case, outrageously elaborate moustache twiddler.
I tell you what, grab those stylish horn rimmed spectacles – whether there’s real lenses in them or not – we’re going to look at the evidence. Is there really a tipple to nipple ratio?
IPAs on the rack
All this beer fear can be traced back to an herbalist named Stephen Harrod Buhner. He first put forward the idea in his 1998 book, ‘Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers’.
You see, beer contains the plant extract hops and hops in turn includes compounds known as phytoestrogens. These phytoestrogens – and one especially strong one, 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN) – bind to estrogen receptors in our system.
This imitates the effects of the female hormone on the body, effectively raising levels.
Basically Buhner is saying that when you order an exceptionally hoppy beer, like an IPA, what you’re really buying a tall, cold, crisp glass of bubbly estrogen.
Do that too many times he claims and it’s going to start taking the edge of more than just your thirst.
On paper, there’s a certain logic to that. Testosterone and estrogen are on the opposite ends of your hormonal balance. We always say they have a seesaw relationship, when one’s up the other is down.
Obviously the male hormone should be dominant in men. But keep filling up on pints of female, the balance will be skewed and eventually your physique is going to take on … certain feminine traits. Two of ’em, to be precise.
All sounding depressingly convincing so far, isn’t it? Especially when you find out a 2008 in vivo study showed 8-PN does trigger an increase in mammary cells.
The man & the myth
Well hold on there. Let’s not go getting in a round of mineral waters just yet. It doesn’t take much digging for this whole thing to start unravelling.
For starters, this theory – which you can now find all over the internet – comes from one man who is not a scientist. Or any kind of medical researcher for that matter.
As we mentioned, Stephen Harrod Buhner is an herbalist and author. In fact he refers to himself as an ‘Earth poet.’
That’s cool, we’re not ragging on him. Everyone should be allowed to do their thing. We’re just saying, in terms of actual academic credentials, the man behind ‘beer = boobs’ is about on a par with Professor Wheeto.
It is true that 8-PN is one of the most potent phytoestrogens, which is found in hops and can stimulate breast tissue. However according to a study by those magnificent brainboxes at the Endocrinology Society:
(W-we *hic* bloody love zoo guyses at the end…emd-endofcrimemolgy si-sitiety, zid y’knowat?)
About the highest levels of 8-PN recorded in beer is 20 micrograms per litre. In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s a tiny amount.
Put it this way, to get breasts from beer alone, you’d have to drink so much that any extra weight in the chest department would be more of a problem for your pallbearers than you.
There have been relatively few studies done in this area, but what work has been done, shows no direct link between beer and man-boobs.
A hoppy ending?
So that’s it. Craft beers are in the clear. IPAs all the way. Two pints of Jalapeno Happening and a Peach Warrior Death Stout to celebrate please, barkeep!
Well hold on there (again.) Beer may not have enough hops to give you man boobs, but go too nuts and it’s got more than enough calories to do it.
Fatty deposits aren’t the same as estrogen fuelled gynaecomastia, but neither are a great look.
Plus, Buhner’s main mistake was picking on only beer. The truth is, seriously overdoing it with any alcohol can damage your liver. This causes the organ to convert too many androgens into estrogen, triggering a build-up that way.
Of course, if your liver is damaged from drinking, a bit of extra cleavage is probably the least of your problems.
But let’s not go out on that lukewarm, flat note. As long as you don’t go overboard too often beer is absolutely fine. It’s mighty fine in fact.
The take away (or maybe that should be carry out) from this article should be: when it comes to drinking beer or any alcohol, it’s never a bad idea to to be mindful of glass size. But at least now you know you don’t have to worry about cup size too.