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Hops are giving you man boobs? Poppycock

Yes, drink enough IPAs and you could end up with man boobs — so the headline on Wednesday’s much passed around story is, technically, a bit more accurate than the second paragraph: “Yes, you read that right: Hops are giving men man boobs.”

The article relies on “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers” to demonize hops. The book drew controversial conclusions in 1998, and there considerable research since, unearthing plenty of contradicting evidence.

The villain is 8-prenylnaringenin, a phytoestrogen mentioned in the story. Maybe the villain; not even that is exactly clear. But there is a bottom line; 8-prenylnaringenin is “abundant” in hops only when compared to the average plant. Research in Germany, cited in this 2004 Brauwelt story, notes that “levels in hops are very low. The concentration is below 0.01% and thus e.g. about 100 times lower than that of xanthohumol.” Hop researchers have been studying xanthohumal for some time, trying to promote its health benefits. The problem is you’d have to drink so much beer to enjoy to get the benefits you’d probably die from alcoholism.

Various studies found that between 0.02 and 0.24 mg/l of 8-prenylnaringenin end up in finished beer and that “humans would have to consume more than 1000 liters of beer daily to achieve detectable estrogenic effects.”

Hops add no calories to beer. But drink enough 200-calorie IPAs and you’ve got a good running start on man boobs. Just don’t blame the hops

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