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Soy and man- boobs?

Posted on April 23 2022

Soy and man- boobs? | Roshni Sanghvi

Let's look at some research here.

Here is another newsletter telling you that soy is not only healthy but NECESSARY for a wholesome diet.

Does soy cause man boobs?

This surprising question is widely based on a recurrent myth but does not seem to have any medical evidence.

I came across this picture floating on WhatsApp recently (Kumbh Mela 2021).

How many man- boobs can you spot here. Look at it closely, do you think ANY of them are on a high tofu diet ;)

(Of course I do not mean to hurt any religious sentiments here, just making a point)

Having man boobs, which is medically known as ‘gynecomastia’, has been related to hormones (the growth hormones and estrogen from dairy milk), and obesity. There is no good medical literature to prove that consuming soy will cause men's breast tissue to grow.

Soy is loaded with phytoestrogen, which are plant-based molecules often confused with the female sex hormone ‘estrogen’. That has raised the fear, and hence the myth, that eating soy could bring out feminine attributes in men, such as breast enlargement. However, not a single research study has found any association of soy and man boobs.

Therefore, I can safely assure you that this question is purely based on myth with no proven evidence whatsoever.

Who should avoid soy?

There are however some people who are bound to avoid consuming soy. A few people have soy allergies. Only about 1 in 2,000 people are actually allergic to soy, just like any other food allergy.

That number is 40 times less than the most common allergen i.e. dairy milk, and about ten times less than all the other common allergens like fish, nuts, wheat, eggs, shellfish, or peanuts.

If you are one of those people allergic to soy, you ought to avoid this legume and opt for other plant-based nutrient sources. If not, you are good to go!

Can men get man boobs from soy milk?

Soy plant is rich in isoflavones, a particular type of phytoestrogen, which may mimic the human hormone oestrogen in the body. And here is where the confusion starts. But isoflavons are classified as SERN (selective oestrogen receptor modulators), meaning, they only selectively attach themselves to oestrogen receptors in the body.

Now what that means is, if there is very little oestrogen in the body, these isoflavons will mimic oestrogenic properties by attaching itself to receptors in the body where needed. For example, by attaching itself to the estrogenic receptors in the bone, soy products actually increase bone strength and prevents osteoporosis.

In other cases, when there is too much estrogen in the body, these photo oestrogens might actually block the harmful effects of oestrogen in the body. For instance, soy consumption has been linked to lowered risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, both of which are linked with excess sex hormone production. 

Man boobs are most often the result of extra body fat. Soy has nothing to do with the same.

There appears to be no link between soy products, such as tofu, and the formation of man boobs. 

If you don't want man boobs, exercise, eat healthily (including a diet rich in plant-based whole foods), and maintain a healthy weight. A moderate amount of soy, up to two servings per day, is beneficial, if anything.

Is soy milk a risk factor for breast cancer?

According to studies, breast cancer risk is reduced in women who consume a soy-rich diet. Soy has not only been linked to a reduction in the chances of breast cancer, but also strongly linked to a reduction in recurrence rates.

The mechanism by which soy acts in reducing cancer rates is by inhibiting the growth of blood vessels that provide nutrients to grow cancerous cells.

 

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