Gynecomastia — known colloquially as “man boobs” — is a very common and benign medical condition, having to do with imbalances in the endocrine system. The most dangerous part is getting teased about it — especially when people take the joke a little too far. Well, for those concerned about the condition, there’s a new danger in town: Your IPAs.
An article over on Vice claims that there’s a direct connection between becoming a Robert Paulsen impersonator and IPAs, thanks to a compound in hops known as “phytoestrogens.” Hops, beyond making alcohol fun to drink, are a traditional medicine, thanks to super strong phytoestrogens. In fact, hops extract is an herbal treatment for the problems of menopause. You find phytoestrogens pretty much everywhere, including coffee, and they’re good for you. But, of course, the difference between medicine and poison is usually dosage, and so it supposedly is with phytoestrogens, especially in all those hoppy IPAs.
So are hardcore IPA drinkers stuck always being shirts, not skins? Maybe not. The Vice article is written by a brewer, not a doctor, and since phytoestrogens turn up quite often in vegan and vegetarian diets — through foods like lentils, tempeh, and particularly soy products — it’s been a topic of study for a while. So far, no evidence has turned up that states, in men with normal endocrine function, phytoestrogens knock your hormones off balance.
On the other hand, if you do have endocrine concerns, picking a gose or a wild ale might be a better idea. And this should serve as a good reminder that often the food we eat has effects on our bodies, large and small, well beyond just making us feel good or giving us energy. In other words, enjoy that IPA, but have just one or two. After all, we may be uncertain about the effects of phytoestrogens, but we all know what happens when you have too much booze.