Gynecomastia, also known as male breast enlargement or man boobs, is a common condition among men. The rise in cases has occurred alongside a rise in high-sugar, ultra-processed diets. Is there a link? We’ll be exploring the causes of this condition and the foods to avoid and eat to fight gynecomastia.
You might be surprised to learn that somewhere between 50-60% of male adolescents live with gynecomastia, while 70% of men between 50 and 69 years of age have the condition. So, if this is something you’re dealing with, you’re certainly not alone! Male breast enlargement occurs when fat builds up in the chest, creating the appearance of breasts – though it’s worth noting that both men and women have breast tissue, but in men it’s usually positioned behind the nipple and of a lower concentration.
When men develop gynecomastia, this tissue grows larger into what many call “man boobs”, which, though generally harmless in and of themselves, may be indicative of a greater issue of unstable hormones and other health issues – take a look at some of the possible causes:
- Steroid use
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Hormonal imbalance
Often, gynecomastia is presumed to be the result of gaining weight, but there’s usually a little bit more going on under the surface. Inflammation, insulin resistance and hormonal imbalances are often tied into the condition. When we eat excess sugar and spike our blood sugar levels regularly, we can interfere with insulin production. In men, excess fat tissue can encourage the production of estrogen, and while progesterone usually prevents the build-up of fat in a man’s breast tissue, insulin resistance impairs this function, making men more likely to develop gynecomastia. It also increases their risk for breast cancer – this is why it’s so important to avoid inflammatory and blood-sugar spiking foods. Here are the major foods to steer clear of:
- Deep-fried and trans-fatty foods: These are inflammatory and promote the growth of bad gut bacteria. Deep-fried chicken and chips are worth avoiding.
- Ultra-processed foods: Foods with preservatives, colours and excess salt are a recipe for hormonal disaster.
- Sugary foods: Excess added sugars promote the growth of visceral fat and destroy gut health.
Foods that fight gynecomastia
Anti-inflammatory foods: Foods rich in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids play a major role in fighting free radicals in the body. They fight inflammation and help balance hormones – go for antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, leafy greens and green tea, along with foods rich in omega 3 like walnuts, hemp and algae oil. If you currently have gynecomastia, you may find consistently eating these foods reduces the swelling caused by the condition.
Zinc: Foods rich in zinc – think mushrooms, yoghurt, legumes and nuts – aid the production of testosterone in the body. This can help stabilise low levels of this hormone.
Healthy fats: It may seem counterintuitive, but eating fat – the healthy kind – can actually help fight the fat build-up in men’s breasts. Avocado, coconut, olive oil, nuts and yoghurt are all great options to get your fix of these healthy fats.
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