7

votes

Middle-aged male gynecomastia, aka "moobs"

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 10, 2010 at 6:22 PM

We've had several female-specific questions on PaleoHacks, but this one's for the guys--if you dare. Ladies are welcome to comment also. First of all, I'm not talking about the clinical gynecomastia (breast development) that shows up in adolescents or young men. I'm talking about a more middle-age condition. For the past several years, I've had a vexing problem--a slightly disproportionate fat accumulation in the chest area, commonly known as man-boobs, or "moobs". Since I've changed to a lower carb, more paleo diet, it's getting less pronounced. Have PaleoHacks users had experiences with this problem, or perhaps you "know someone" with moobs? What causes man-boobs, and how do you get rid of them?

Edit/Addendum: NickW raised the point about environmental estrogens. Are there other potential sources besides casked liquor? Should I worry about estrogens in the food chain?

Edit, 4/25/2010--re-titled; I'm including the original title here to provide context to the comments below: "Show us your "moobs"?"

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on November 03, 2012
at 11:38 PM

Meditation could improve your manboobs.

Dc8ec73989c7b37c006f2031dd648a61

on July 03, 2011
at 09:27 PM

I use a bottle from "onegreenbottle"... not sure if they deliver to the U.S (I'm from the UK) but I love my bottle now lol... I'm sure there are similar stainless steel or BPA free plastic bottles around for you :)

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on October 12, 2010
at 10:45 PM

Interesting! I hadn't thought of IF as an hormetic technique.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on October 09, 2010
at 03:12 PM

Thanks for the link!

Db56a3a7ef6f208222cb501f29741b64

(30)

on October 08, 2010
at 09:03 PM

Casked liquor causes man boobs? anybody have more information on this?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 12, 2010
at 04:18 AM

That's seriously SAD.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on April 07, 2010
at 01:18 AM

Thanks, Dexter. For those who use the link, scroll about 2/3 down the page after clicking.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 28, 2010
at 01:33 AM

@pjnoir, congratulations on your success, and thank you for your comment.

35aa6fee222660ce1382d45a7a9a92fd

(150)

on March 12, 2010
at 04:22 AM

Most likely. Plastic with recycling number 2, 4 or 5 are BPA free (although they can contain other things which leech). Leeching in plastic is a function of time and the amount of degradation of the plastic. Any plastic that is exposed to heat will cause it to leech significantly more, this is a permanent degradation. Conversely, if it's a new plastic, and the liquid has been left to sit overnight, it's going to have a much smaller amount of BPA. All of the major water bottle accessory manufacturers started offering BPA free plastics in the last year or two as well.

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 11, 2010
at 07:15 AM

@Ed: I'm not offended by the title; I just think it doesn't reflect the question as well as it might. Not a big deal, though!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 11, 2010
at 04:04 AM

Oops! I hope that doesn't work for me!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 03:26 AM

Very inspirational--thanks, Melissa!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 03:05 AM

@Kevin, great answer, especially the phyto vs. xeno thing. I wonder if cheap bicycle water bottles, which I re-use many times, contain significant BPA?

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 11, 2010
at 02:17 AM

Ed, Keep plugging away! Sounds like you are doing a lot of things right. I don't know much about testosterone/estrogen but my hunch is that anything that increases T and reduces E in older males would help you out. I am sure there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there about diet/exercise/sex hormones that is wrong... but lifting heavy probably doesn't hurt. You'll probably have to tinker with your diet/exercise/rest and see what works for you. Cut out dairy? Reduce/increase carb intake? Supplements? Lift/sprint/sleep more? Best of luck!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 01:33 AM

@Rick, it's a substantive topic, but the title is intended to lighten up the discussion a bit. Glenn and NickW certainly "got it", and I appreciate your answer as well. If there's enough offense taken at the title, I'll replace it. If the questiion gets to -3 votes, I'll take the whole question down.

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 11, 2010
at 01:15 AM

@Patrik: seems like the title of the question could be better. I would fix it myself, but don't have enough points quite yet...

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on March 11, 2010
at 01:00 AM

Agreed. My personal mantra is "Soy is Satanic". But that is just me.... :)

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on March 11, 2010
at 12:59 AM

When I first saw this question, I was ready to start invoking some of my admin privileges and start deleting away -- but apparently this is a serious discussion.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 12:32 AM

Interesting point Nick, but I don't drink scotch. I do indulge in an occasional beer or mojito. Thanks,

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 12:31 AM

Thanks Glenn! I sometimes confuse the terms "brassiere" and "brasserie". I guess an infant can dine at either locale.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 12:15 AM

Thanks Jae, great answer. Additional info.: mostly lacto-paleo diet for about 1 year, about 100gm carbs/day, about 100gm protein/day (wt. 160lb.), age 52, body fat 16% by on-line calculator, resistance training 20min. 2X per week, sprint intervals 1X/week, mountain or road cycling 1-2 hours/week, sleep 7-8hr./nite

03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on March 10, 2010
at 06:32 PM

Can't get rid of it. Only option is a male bra, known as a "Bro" (or "Manssiere"--depending on whom you ask). ;)

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17 Answers

best answer

11
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 10, 2010
at 09:12 PM

I don't know a whole lot about this, so hopefully someone better informed will chime in. But from what I know about fat storage in human males and females, I would be surprised if the answer didn't have something to do with insulin, testosterone, and estrogen.

If you:

  • eat grain-free, gluten-free, lowish-carb Paleo (<30-50g carbs from non-starchy vegetables)*
  • eat adequate protein from meat and fish
  • exercise short (5-15 minutes max) high-intensity 1-3x per week (HIIT, CrossFit, sprint intervals, Tabatas, etc.)
  • lift weights (powerlifts or Olympic lifts) 2-3x per week (HEAVY, in the 2-5 rep range for powerlifts and 1-3 rep range for Oly lifts)
  • sleep adequately (probably 8-9+ hours daily in a dark room)
  • get adequate vitamin D from sunlight, sunlamps, or pills (enough to maintain 50-70 ng/mL)

This will help normalize insulin, which will in turn reduce overall body fat. If you are at 8-10% it is hard for me to see how you will maintain moobs. [EDIT: Actually, due to the role that sex hormones play in determining the location of fat deposits, I suppose it would be possible to maintain some moobs, but they would likely get smaller as you approach 8-10% BF.]

I would also think that these steps will help increase testosterone and decrease excess estrogen. In theory this will help decrease the size of your moobs, as decreased estrogen --> loss of fat in chest region.

To give you better advice, it would be helpful if you give us an indication of

  • what your current diet is like (what foods you eat/avoid, rough idea of macronutrient ratios -- does not have to be super precise)
  • how long you've been on your current diet
  • what your current body fat % is (approximately)
  • your age
  • your level of physical activity (do you exercise? play sports? lift weights? how often and how hard?)
  • how much you sleep on average

*The carb intake recommendation is just a place to start that seems to work for a lot of people. Your individual carb intake may vary depending on your level and type of activity, your age, your body composition, your health/athletic goals, your body's individual tolerance for carbs, other health issues, and other factors.

I'm pretty sure that a lot of this is info you already know, but maybe I hit something you hadn't thought of.

Edit: Dr. Davis just posted his thoughts as well on his blog.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on March 11, 2010
at 02:17 AM

Ed, Keep plugging away! Sounds like you are doing a lot of things right. I don't know much about testosterone/estrogen but my hunch is that anything that increases T and reduces E in older males would help you out. I am sure there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there about diet/exercise/sex hormones that is wrong... but lifting heavy probably doesn't hurt. You'll probably have to tinker with your diet/exercise/rest and see what works for you. Cut out dairy? Reduce/increase carb intake? Supplements? Lift/sprint/sleep more? Best of luck!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 12:15 AM

Thanks Jae, great answer. Additional info.: mostly lacto-paleo diet for about 1 year, about 100gm carbs/day, about 100gm protein/day (wt. 160lb.), age 52, body fat 16% by on-line calculator, resistance training 20min. 2X per week, sprint intervals 1X/week, mountain or road cycling 1-2 hours/week, sleep 7-8hr./nite

10
35aa6fee222660ce1382d45a7a9a92fd

on March 11, 2010
at 02:23 AM

There are different types of fat tissues in the body, and hormones will control which tissue types the fat is deposited in. The hips and chest are the female locations of fat, the gut for males. The hormones estrogen and testosterone will control whether fat goes into a female or a male location.

Aside from avoiding excess phytoestrogens in your food (soy), there are chemical sources of extrogen mimicking sources, called xenoestrogens.

The most common xenoestrogen is bisphenol A (BPA), found in many plastics. While the amount of xenoestrogens that leaches from a plastic water bottle into the water is very low (in the parts per billion), the normal levels of estrogen in the blood stream in a male is even lower (in the parts per trillion). BPA leeches not only from water bottles, but it's also found in the linings of tin cans, and many other food products that are shipped in plastic. BPA is also used in many thermal imaging papers, in particular cash register reciepts. You typically won't expose such paper to foods, but the BPA on those papers is not bound into polymers, but is floating free, so it's possible significant amounts could be absorbed through skin or inadvertently transfered onto foods.

Sunscreens and skin-care products can also contain high-levels of hormone distrupting products, so it's worthwhile sourcing a non-toxic sunscreen.

35aa6fee222660ce1382d45a7a9a92fd

(150)

on March 12, 2010
at 04:22 AM

Most likely. Plastic with recycling number 2, 4 or 5 are BPA free (although they can contain other things which leech). Leeching in plastic is a function of time and the amount of degradation of the plastic. Any plastic that is exposed to heat will cause it to leech significantly more, this is a permanent degradation. Conversely, if it's a new plastic, and the liquid has been left to sit overnight, it's going to have a much smaller amount of BPA. All of the major water bottle accessory manufacturers started offering BPA free plastics in the last year or two as well.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 03:05 AM

@Kevin, great answer, especially the phyto vs. xeno thing. I wonder if cheap bicycle water bottles, which I re-use many times, contain significant BPA?

Dc8ec73989c7b37c006f2031dd648a61

on July 03, 2011
at 09:27 PM

I use a bottle from "onegreenbottle"... not sure if they deliver to the U.S (I'm from the UK) but I love my bottle now lol... I'm sure there are similar stainless steel or BPA free plastic bottles around for you :)

5
48f9bb680fbc1bc1bd0d9cb09ee10273

(230)

on July 17, 2010
at 10:10 PM

Another thing I don't seem mentioned is an enzymatic function of the body called aromatase. In men, aromatase activity refers to the conversion of testosterone into either DHT or estrogen. Fat cells are unfortunately very good at aromatizing your natural testosterone, changing it into estrogen, which is why most truly obese men end up with development of gynecomastia (or manbreasts, or moobs!). If you keep getting leaner, your fat levels will go down, and your aromatizing activity should go down, leaving you with higher testosterone to estrogen ratios in your blood - a good thing!

By the way, there are some over the counter anti-aromatizing compounds (e.g. chrysin, sold at many vitamin shops), but don't bother - its been proven ineffective in the body (though it does work in a test tube), and it can damage your thyroid. There are prescriptions that can help (e.g. arimidex), but start with just getting leaner.

Another thing is to eat more cruciferous vegies - like broccoli - they can scavenge excess estrogen from your body.

Good luck!

5
0fb8b3d6dcfb279b0f7e050d2d22510f

(4645)

on March 27, 2010
at 11:04 PM

Yes, besides the diet which is now very low in Omega 6's and estrogen laced grains and soy products (including grain fed neat, etc), a succesful stregth training program using kettlebells, re-shaped my old fat body. I can take my shirt off in public for the first time in my life.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 28, 2010
at 01:33 AM

@pjnoir, congratulations on your success, and thank you for your comment.

5
5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

on March 11, 2010
at 12:57 AM

One big source of dietary estrogens is soy, in all of its forms. If you cut a lot of soy out of your diet when switching to Paleo, that might explain part of your improvements.

Breast tissue (which is present in all men to some degree) is largely fat. Eating more saturated fats helps encourage the body to produce proper levels of a bunch of hormones, including testosterone, which in turn helps produce muscles instead of fat. Lowering insulin levels--one of the primary goals of Paleo--should also help, since it reduces overall fat storage.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on March 11, 2010
at 01:00 AM

Agreed. My personal mantra is "Soy is Satanic". But that is just me.... :)

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 03:26 AM

Very inspirational--thanks, Melissa!

2
06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on April 07, 2010
at 01:00 AM

I ran across this posting on the HeartScanBlog. Read the post...but especially read Dr. BG's comment regarding Prolactin and Moobs.

http://bit.ly/ccvdwa

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on April 07, 2010
at 01:18 AM

Thanks, Dexter. For those who use the link, scroll about 2/3 down the page after clicking.

2
B1b9f0574aa9571f6aec6adb81d43190

(578)

on March 10, 2010
at 07:04 PM

If you're a casked-liquor drinker, may want to switch to something non-wooded (eg. move from scotch to vodka). Estrogen from the wood has been known to cause the whiskey-tits problem.

I am not insinuating you're a heavy drinker, and giving up scotch is close to sacrilege :P.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on March 11, 2010
at 12:32 AM

Interesting point Nick, but I don't drink scotch. I do indulge in an occasional beer or mojito. Thanks,

1
C7d885c86c9f25745b57e873ff26e1e9

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

My Dh has been diagnosed with hyperaldosteronism, and has to take Spirinolactone to control the consequent high blood pressure. He was complaining about his newly pubescent breasts, and the discomfort from the tenderness. The nephrologist was duly concerned about this complaint about breast pain, until I interrupted the male angst fest about breast discomfort, by saying sarcastically....

Breast tenderness and pain? You guys tell me about it, right?

They got the point.

1
0fb8b3d6dcfb279b0f7e050d2d22510f

(4645)

on October 12, 2010
at 11:03 PM

just about lost mine after 20+ months of Paleo. Reduce omega 6s and it can be done. Not overnight. I am very comfortable for the first time in my life to be outside without a shirt.

1
B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

on October 12, 2010
at 09:28 PM

I agree with all the hormonal points above, but would like to emphasize that nothing encourages the body to 'take back' the odd spare flesh caused by years of SAD living like Intermittent Fasting.

What I take away from Nonlinear stimulation and hormesis in human aging: practical examples and action mechanisms. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20662589 is that chronic (repeated) IF accelerates the remodelling and possible removal of damaged or redundant cells.

Just my opinion, backed by some facts. Other facts and opinions are welcome!

I'll admit, I esp. love this line from the abstract:* Such techniques include dietary restriction and calorie restriction mimetics, intermittent fasting, environmental enrichment, cognitive and sense stimulation, sexuality-enhancing strategies, exposure to low or to high temperatures, and other physicochemical challenges!*

So yes, vary how you live your life, and you'll have more of it! Or less of it, in the case of Moobs.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on October 12, 2010
at 10:45 PM

Interesting! I hadn't thought of IF as an hormetic technique.

1
149af6e19a06675614dfbb6838a7d7c0

on October 09, 2010
at 08:43 AM

Dr. Davis at Heart Scan is on this one. Check out the latest blog called "Bosom Buddies". http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/

This is one of his pet peeves. You can do this. Remember Woody Allen's words in Bananas..."you must suck out the poison..."

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11478)

on October 09, 2010
at 03:12 PM

Thanks for the link!

1
485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

on April 26, 2010
at 04:05 AM

Had them since puberty except when I got down to my ideal weight in the mid-20s. And I wasn't even paleo at the time--lost weight back then by limiting calories only. As soon as I put fat back on, back came the boobs. So I would say you need to lose more fat.

1
06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on April 12, 2010
at 04:03 AM

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 12, 2010
at 04:18 AM

That's seriously SAD.

1
13c5a9f1678d75b93f269cdcf69f14d5

(2339)

on March 29, 2010
at 12:58 AM

work on improving your insulin sensitivity - intermittent fasting and cold showers for example.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 10, 2010
at 11:50 PM

Logically, since a paleo diet reduces your overall fat, you would assume that the moob problem would diminish as your total body fat goes down. Good luck.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 11, 2010
at 04:04 AM

Oops! I hope that doesn't work for me!

0
A048b66e08306d405986b6c04bf5e8e4

on December 24, 2013
at 02:16 AM

I'm no doctor or endocrinologist, but your testosterone might be low and your estrogen might be high. Eating paleo is a good start, since it eliminates all soy, which is very high in phytoestrogens, but also take steps further to avoid BPA, (which is a type of xenoestrogen) and only use BPA free cans and bottles, if you use canned goods at all, avoid storing your foods in plastics and drinking from plastic water bottles, as the xenoesterogens from the plastics can leach into food and water. Use glass instead. Avoid conventionally raised produce, as the pesticides can contain xenoestrogens, and only eat organic or pesticide free produce, and if you have to eat conventional produce, wash it throroughly in water and vinegar. And even though you can't spot reduce, some chest presses can't hurt you.

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