What we eat has a significant impact on our body’s hormonal balance of testosterone and estrogen in our bodies. More than any other food, soy has long been vilified as an estrogen-boosting food, often cited by men as a reason to not go vegan.
But outside of the Internet hype and advertiser hyperbole, what is the true hormonal impact of what we put in our bodies?
It’s no secret that what we eat affects our health, though you’d never know that from speaking with the vast majority of medical doctors. I cannot even count the number of times I’ve heard from men that they can’t go vegan because of the estrogenic effects of soy, with the most-often offered pejorative “man boobs” being a main concern.
In this third installment of the Men’s Health Series with Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org, we’ll get to the bottom of the soy controversy and see what foods and beverages are the most beneficial or detrimental to testosterone levels. For more in depth information on testosterone and diet as well as what to eat and avoid for erectile dysfunction, be sure to check out the first two videos in the series.
Now let’s hear what Dr. Greger has to say about the hormonal impact of diet.
Addressing the soy controversy and concerns men have of estrogen-promoting effects:
“1951 Australia—that’s where it all starts. Where we have two Australian chemists who are tasked with trying to solve the mystery of why sheep in Australia were becoming infertile, devastating the wool industry in Australia. These two chemists discovered that it was the clover—that there was clover that had a phytoestrogen called “genistein,” the same phytoestrogen found in soy. And it had these estrogenic effects and it was affecting the fertility of the sheep.
And so if you go online and you read about the dangers of soy, you’ll see “the dreaded clover disease”—lots of allusions to “the dreaded clover disease.” But you’ll notice what they don’t talk about is the dosing.
To get as much of this phytoestrogen in your body as the sheep were in clover, one would have to drink—one would have to eat 8,000 soy burgers a day or 800 pounds of tofu or 1,000 cartons of soy milk a day. And only then would you get the same kind of effects that these poor sheep were getting.
Now that’s not to say you cannot over do it. There have been two case reports in literature of feminizing effects in men eating as few as like 14 to 25 servings of soy a day, alright? But at any reasonable amount of soy intake—so these were men drinking gallons of soy milk a day—but if you stick to less than 14 servings a day of soy, no feminizing effects ever reported. And in fact, have beneficial effects for prostate health etc. etc.”
On what foods in are best to balance or enhance male hormonal levels:
So some of these German scientists saw this work in Australia and said “Ah hah! That’s why female hop-pickers start menstruating as soon as they start touching hops.” And that’s because of this powerful estrogenic effects of “hopein,” which is the phytoestrogen found in the bittering agent in beer.
And indeed, women who drink beer actually have stronger bones, less hot flashes, et cetera—and that’s because of this phytoestrogen effect. Unfortunately, the phytoestrogen in beer attaches preferentially to alpha estrogen receptors, as opposed to beta estrogen receptors, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
So the reason that you see hop extracts in so-called breast enhancement supplements is because of that phytoestrogenic effect, whereas soy phytoestrogens attach preferentially to beta receptors, unlike your own estrogens—your own endogenous estrogen. And so actually have a breast cancer reducing effect through the same protective effect in terms of hot flashes.
And so alcohol itself can decrease testosterone levels, but beer in particular. So I’d encourage people, if they’re worried about testosterone, they shouldn’t be chugging a 6-pack.”
Emily: It’s kind of astonishing how there is the stereotype that for men the way to be the manliest you can possibly be is to be consuming you know a bunch of meat and drinking a lot of beer. And it sounds like it’s kind of the worse maybe you can have for sexual performance and testosterone levels.
Dr. Greger: And life span.
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Dr. Greger on the estrogenic affects of soy and—surprisingly—beer. The hormonal impact of what we eat reaches far beyond fears of feminization, as we saw with the cancer promoting effects of hops and cancer reducing effects of soy.
Regardless of gender, the hormones in what we consume can have life-altering and life-ending consequences.
Now I know tracking nutrition can be a pain, so I wanted to let you know about Cronometer. It’s a free website and app that I’ve used in several of my videos because of it’s uniquely detailed nutrition reports and ease of use. Plus, they were awesome enough to sponsor the Dr. Greger nutrition series, to help get that vital educational info out, and have come on board for the remainder of the Men’s Health Series as well! Be sure to head over for your free profile!
You can also find links to relevant studies and Dr. Greger’s site on the blog post for this video linked in the description below.
Please share this video around to help men take hold of their health. Be sure to subscribe to the channel to not miss out on the rest of the Men’s Health Series.
Now go live vegan, give soy a break, and I’ll see you soon.
▶︎➤FEATURED VIDEOS & RESOURCES:
➣ The Men's Health Series
➣ More With Dr. Greger
➣ Is Alcohol Vegan? Vegan Guide To Alcohol
➣ Why Your Doctor Is Lying To You
➣ How NOT To Die
➣ What’s Really Killing You
➣ Vegan Nutrition Concerns Playlist
➣ Real Vegan Athletes
➣ Dr. Greger Reacts to YouTube Fitness Nutrition ‘Experts'
CITATIONS: [bibliography available below citations]
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 Greger, MD, Michael, How Much Soy Is Too Much?, 10 vols., 2012, http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-much-soy-is-too-much/.
 Supporting Studies for How Much Soy Is Too Much: Supporting Studies for “How Much Soy Is Too Much”: Xiao Ou Shu et al., “Soy Food Intake and Breast Cancer Survival,” JAMA : The Journal of the American Medical Association 302, no. 22 (December 9, 2009): 2437–43, doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1783; Chisato Nagata et al., “Dietary Soy and Fats in Relation to Serum Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 and Insulin-like Growth Factor-Binding Protein-3 Levels in Premenopausal Japanese Women,” Nutrition and Cancer 45, no. 2 (2003): 185–89, doi:10.1207/S15327914NC4502_07; Antonella Dewell et al., “Relationship of Dietary Protein and Soy Isoflavones to Serum IGF-1 and IGF Binding Proteins in the Prostate Cancer Lifestyle Trial,” Nutrition and Cancer 58, no. 1 (2007): 35–42, doi:10.1080/01635580701308034; Gertraud Maskarinec et al., “Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 and Binding Protein-3 in a 2-Year Soya Intervention among Premenopausal Women,” The British Journal of Nutrition 94, no. 3 (September 2005): 362–67; A. H. Wu et al., “Epidemiology of Soy Exposures and Breast Cancer Risk,” British Journal of Cancer 98, no. 1 (January 15, 2008): 9–14, doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6604145; Bahram H. Arjmandi et al., “Soy Protein Has a Greater Effect on Bone in Postmenopausal Women Not on Hormone Replacement Therapy, as Evidenced by Reducing Bone Resorption and Urinary Calcium Excretion,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 88, no. 3 (March 2003): 1048–54, doi:10.1210/jc.2002-020849.
 Mark Messina and Virginia L. Messina, “Exploring the Soyfood Controversy:,” Nutrition Today 48, no. 2 (2013): 68–75, doi:10.1097/NT.0b013e31828fff54.
 Mark Messina, “Soybean Isoflavone Exposure Does Not Have Feminizing Effects on Men: A Critical Examination of the Clinical Evidence,” Fertility and Sterility 93, no. 7 (May 1, 2010): 2095–2104, doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.03.002.
 Michael Greger, M.D., The Most Potent Phytoestrogen Is in Beer, vol. 31, 2016, http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-most-potent-phytoestrogen-is-in-beer/.
 Supporting Studies for The Most Potent Phytoestrogen: S. R. Milligan et al., “Identification of a Potent Phytoestrogen in Hops (Humulus Lupulus L.) and Beer,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 84, no. 6 (June 1999): 2249–52, doi:10.1210/jcem.84.6.5887; W. Chen et al., “Beer and Beer Compounds: Physiological Effects on Skin Health,” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV 28, no. 2 (February 2014): 142–50, doi:10.1111/jdv.12204; Sam Possemiers et al., “Activation of Proestrogens from Hops (Humulus Lupulus L.) by Intestinal Microbiota; Conversion of Isoxanthohumol into 8-Prenylnaringenin,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53, no. 16 (August 10, 2005): 6281–88, doi:10.1021/jf0509714; Bradbury and White, “761. The Chemistry of Subterranean Clover. Part I. Isolation of Formononetin and Genistein”; E. R. Rosenblum et al., “Isolation and Identification of Phytoestrogens from Beer,” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 16, no. 5 (October 1992): 843–45; Olaf Schaefer et al., “Development of a Radioimmunoassay for the Quantitative Determination of 8-Prenylnaringenin in Biological Matrices,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53, no. 8 (April 20, 2005): 2881–89, doi:10.1021/jf047897u; N. G. Coldham et al., “A Binary Screening Assay for pro-Oestrogens in Food: Metabolic Activation Using Hepatic Microsomes and Detection with Oestrogen Sensitive Recombinant Yeast Cells,” Food Additives and Contaminants 19, no. 12 (December 2002): 1138–47, doi:10.1080/0265203021000014789; J. S. Gavaler et al., “The Phytoestrogen Congeners of Alcoholic Beverages: Current Status,” Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (New York, N.Y.) 208, no. 1 (January 1995): 98–102; Sam Possemiers et al., “The Intestinal Microbiome: A Separate Organ inside the Body with the Metabolic Potential to Influence the Bioactivity of Botanicals,” Fitoterapia 82, no. 1 (January 2011): 53–66, doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2010.07.012; D. H. Van Thiel, “Feminization of Chronic Alcoholic Men: A Formulation,” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 52, no. 2 (April 1979): 219–25; A. Galvão-Teles et al., “Alterations of Testicular Morphology in Alcoholic Disease,” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 7, no. 2 (1983): 144–49; N. G. Coldham and M. J. Sauer, “Identification, Quantitation and Biological Activity of Phytoestrogens in a Dietary Supplement for Breast Enhancement,” Food and Chemical Toxicology: An International Journal Published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association 39, no. 12 (December 2001): 1211–24; Kenneth D. R. Setchell, Nadine M. Brown, and Eva Lydeking-Olsen, “The Clinical Importance of the Metabolite Equol-a Clue to the Effectiveness of Soy and Its Isoflavones,” The Journal of Nutrition 132, no. 12 (December 2002): 3577–84.
 Rosenblum et al., “Isolation and Identification of Phytoestrogens from Beer.”
 Michael Greger, M.D., What Are the Effects of the Hops Phytoestrogen in Beer?, vol. 31, 2016, http://nutritionfacts.org/video/what-are-the-effects-of-the-hops-phytoestrogen-in-beer/.
 Supporting Studies For “What are the effects of the hops phytoestrogen in beer”: Larissa A. Korde et al., “Childhood Soy Intake and Breast Cancer Risk in Asian American Women,” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: A Publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, Cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology 18, no. 4 (April 2009): 1050–59, doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0405; Mark Frederick McCarty, “Isoflavones Made Simple – Genistein’s Agonist Activity for the Beta-Type Estrogen Receptor Mediates Their Health Benefits,” Medical Hypotheses 66, no. 6 (2006): 1093–1114, doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2004.11.046; Christina A. Clarke et al., “Recent Declines in Hormone Therapy Utilization and Breast Cancer Incidence: Clinical and Population-Based Evidence,” Journal of Clinical Oncology: Official Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 24, no. 33 (November 20, 2006): e49-50, doi:10.1200/JCO.2006.08.6504; Kevin Zbuk and Sonia S. Anand, “Declining Incidence of Breast Cancer after Decreased Use of Hormone-Replacement Therapy: Magnitude and Time Lags in Different Countries,” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 66, no. 1 (January 2012): 1–7, doi:10.1136/jech.2008.083774; Messina, “Soybean Isoflavone Exposure Does Not Have Feminizing Effects on Men”; Messina and Messina, “Exploring the Soyfood Controversy”; Kenneth D. R. Setchell, Nadine M. Brown, and Eva Lydeking-Olsen, “The Clinical Importance of the Metabolite Equol-a Clue to the Effectiveness of Soy and Its Isoflavones,” The Journal of Nutrition 132, no. 12 (December 2002): 3577–84; M. G. Lê et al., “Alcoholic Beverage Consumption and Breast Cancer in a French Case-Control Study,” American Journal of Epidemiology 120, no. 3 (September 1984): 350–57; S. Milligan et al., “Oestrogenic Activity of the Hop Phyto-Oestrogen, 8-Prenylnaringenin,” Reproduction (Cambridge, England) 123, no. 2 (February 2002): 235–42; J. S. Gavaler, “Alcoholic Beverages as a Source of Estrogens,” Alcohol Health and Research World 22, no. 3 (1998): 220–27; Vida Aghamiri et al., “The Effect of Hop (Humulus Lupulus L.) on Early Menopausal Symptoms and Hot Flashes: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial,” Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 23 (May 2016): 130–35, doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2015.05.001; Olaf Schaefer et al., “8-Prenyl Naringenin Is a Potent ERalpha Selective Phytoestrogen Present in Hops and Beer,” The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 84, no. 2–3 (February 2003): 359–60; Aafje Sierksma et al., “Effect of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Plasma Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Testosterone, and Estradiol Levels in Middle-Aged Men and Postmenopausal Women: A Diet-Controlled Intervention Study,” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 28, no. 5 (May 2004): 780–85; Annekathrin M. Keiler, Oliver Zierau, and Georg Kretzschmar, “Hop Extracts and Hop Substances in Treatment of Menopausal Complaints,” Planta Medica 79, no. 7 (May 2013): 576–79, doi:10.1055/s-0032-1328330; R. Erkkola et al., “A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-over Pilot Study on the Use of a Standardized Hop Extract to Alleviate Menopausal Discomforts,” Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology 17, no. 6 (May 2010): 389–96, doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.01.007; L. R. Chadwick, G. F. Pauli, and N. R. Farnsworth, “The Pharmacognosy of Humulus Lupulus L. (Hops) with an Emphasis on Estrogenic Properties,” Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology 13, no. 1–2 (January 2006): 119–31, doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2004.07.006; Arne Heyerick et al., “A First Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study on the Use of a Standardized Hop Extract to Alleviate Menopausal Discomforts,” Maturitas 54, no. 2 (May 20, 2006): 164–75, doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2005.10.005; Adriane Fugh-Berman, “‘Bust Enhancing’ herbal Products,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 101, no. 6 (June 2003): 1345–49; Juan D. Pedrera-Zamorano et al., “Effect of Beer Drinking on Ultrasound Bone Mass in Women,” Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.) 25, no. 10 (October 2009): 1057–63, doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.02.007.