The Internet is abuzz with claims that the Burger King Impossible Whopper, made by Impossible Foods, has 18 million times the estrogen of a standard Burger Kind all-beef patty Whopper. This report has created quite a stir online, as consumers fear the worst.
Let me begin by stating that this claim is an unsubstantiated, unscientific, complete misrepresentation of fact, but then, this statement is made by a doctor of veterinary medicine writing for the Tri -State Livestock News (“What Ranchers Read” is their tag line”), obviously a content source with a vested interest in keeping Americans eating beef.
Dr. James Stangle, DVM of Milesville, South Dakota, in the December 20th, 2019 edition of the periodical, writes in his article entitled Impossible burgers are made of what?, “…an impossible whopper has 18 million times as much estrogen as a regular whopper. Just six glasses of soy milk per day has enough estrogen to grow boobs on a male. That’s the equivalent of eating four impossible whoppers per day. You would have to eat 880 pounds of beef from an implanted steer to equal the amount of estrogen in one birth control pill.”
As a vegan for over twenty years, I’ve eaten my fair share of soy. I am a male, and I am not at all interested in transitioning. Not to fear, so far I haven’t grown boobs. And, I’m sure that isn’t going to happen any time soon. The fact is, stating that the Impossible Whopper has ANY level of detectable estrogen is itself an Impossible Whopper, a cootish tall-tale devised by an individual with an agenda. It’s just not true, plain and simple. Let me explain.
Soybeans, as well as all legumes, have a high amount of chemicals called phytoestrogens. These are hormone-like chemicals used for signalling internally within the plant. Phytoestrogens do bind with hormone receptor sites within a human’s (as well as animal’s) body, though weakly. These naturally-occurring plant-derived xenoestrogens are structurally, as well as functionally, similar to human estrogen. However, soy phytoestrogens, called isoflavones and coumestans, exert a far weaker effect than the female human hormone, estrogen.
Therefore, their effects within the body are not at all comparable, on a gram per gram comparison basis. In fact, phytoestrogens can be used to block human estrogen, as well as testosterone, without feminizing, or masculinizing, effect. If anything, these isoflavones have an anti-estrogenic effect. While anecdotal accounts tout phytoestrogens in helping postmenopausal women with hot flashes and cardiovascular issues, there isn’t clear evidence that this is the case, and there isn’t a lot of clinical evidence proving its safety.
Regardless, it;s a fallacy that six glasses of soy milk a day will grow breasts on men. Any men out there who are avid soy consumers for extended periods care to share their own anecdotal accounts? I’m sure the evidence for such claims is lacking. As stated above, the amount of effect soy phytoestrogens exert is negligible. And,of course, men, women, and children of various cultures, consume soy daily. Further, soybeans re not the only significant source of phytoestrogens in the human diet.
In fact, drinking cow’s milk presents more of an actual risk in this regard, as modern cows, genetically improved so that they lactate throughout pregnancy, can suppress gonadotropin and testosterone secretion in males. This is because our modern milk supply is rich in estrogen and progesterone (not “estrogen-like” phytoestrogens, but rather the animal hormones), and can likewise affect both men and women adversely.
A 2010 study accessible through PubMed entitled “Exposure to exogenous estrogen through intake of commercial milk produced from pregnant cows” conducted at Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering, Department of Clinical Nursing and Pediatrics, University of Yamanashi, Yamanashi, Japan, proves this. The study concludes that,”sexual maturation of prepubertal children could be affected by the ordinary intake of cow milk.”
Hops (Humulus lupulus L.) also contains a high amount of plant-derived phytoestrogens, among them prenylflavonoid, xanthohumol. Hops imparts the its characteristic flavor to beer. Do beer drinking men grow breasts? Men drinking too much alcohol, as well as binging on carbs, may become flabby in the chest, but these “man boobs”, as popular culture has come to call them, are not truly breasts, but rather excess adipose tissue.
Not at all the same. Gynecomastia refers to the growth of glandular tissue in the breasts, but beer only causes fat to be deposited. Of course, overindulgence in any form of alcohol, or carbohydrate-rich foods, can have the same results. It’s not just beer.
And, this isn’t the first time that gynecomastia has been employed as a scare tactic in a futile attempt to modify behavior. In the 1980s, D.A.R.E. programs aiming to reduce teen drug use falsely claimed that weed causes men to grow breasts like women. With the explosion in cannabis use, both medical and recreational, from the 90s to the present, if such claims were true, by now our culture would be awash in anecdotal accounts of men suffering from this condition. But that just isn’t the case. We’ve come to understand that this claim was never based in fact, but merely a well-intentioned scare tactic. Fortunately, we’ve also learned the value of teaching kids fact-based information on drugs and alcohol.
Other plant sources rich in phytoestrogens include flaxseed, sesame, as well as sunflower seed. Garlic, oats, rice, olive oil, apricots, dates, multi-grain bread, and many other foods, as well as most beans. These foods comprise what most dietitians regard as a healthy diet. In fact, the Mediterranean diet, consisting of many phytoestrogen-rich foods, especially on the island of Sicily, where chickpeas and lentils are commonly consumed daily, is considered especially healthful.
Likewise, in India, beans are consumed at incredible rates, as many people of the Hindu faith are, in fact, vegetarian. Face facts. People of India and Italy have no issue with male fertility, or men growing unwanted breasts. There is nothing in the historical record to indicate that this has ever been the case, and more contemporarily, nor do the vast numbers of vegans in the Western world exhibit these changes. it hasn’t been reported in the scientific literature. It’s just not factual. For a scientist to state this is, frankly, irresponsible. There just isn’t sufficient scientific proof, or even anecdotal accounts, on feminization of human males caused by eating a diet rich in soy.
Has it affected Burger King’s Impossible Burger sales yet? Surely, it will. The Impossible Burger has been steadily growing in sales, and so this latest pseudo-scientific claim can only dampen that rapid growth. For one thing, Far Right media sources have ran with this lie, full speed ahead. Politicizing diet? How dumb can you be?
Careful there fellas’; you might just run right into a wall of truth. Or my hard fist. The taunt of “soy boy” has been thrown around for quite some time. I’ll tell you now, any idiot who calls me that to my face will face my wrath. It hasn’t happened yet; no one has been dumb enough to do this. I’m a power-lifter and I will kick some ass. Vegan bodybuilders exist. Vegan power-lifters are a thing. It’s time to get your facts straight. Stop misreporting nonsense.
Oh, and, if you think it affects male virility, explain how I fathered three beautiful children, two boys and a little girl. Each of them is growing normally, and their diet is mostly vegan, supplemented by deep-water fish. next you’ll be telling me my fingers will fall off if we don’t drink milk. I guess having a lactose intolerance isn’t a big deal, maybe I should “man up” and drink my tall glass of milk each day, anyway? So if you want that Impossible Whopper, go for it. Me? Im’ not interested. It’s highly processed, and my diet consists of whole foods we cook at home ourselves.
For further research: