Man Boobs: What Are Moobs and How to Get Rid of Them
Man boobs – known medically as gynecomastia – is a condition caused by a hormonal imbalance. It’s often triggered in men at various stages of their development, like infancy and adolescence, as a response to hormonal fluctuations. However, it’s also a fairly common problem for men once they reach adulthood, with up to 70% of males having some form of ‘moobs’ between the ages of 50-70. But what exactly are moobs, what triggers their development and what can we do about them?
WHAT ARE MAN BOOBS?
Man boobs are nothing more than an increased deposit of fatty tissue around the chest area, giving the appearance of breast tissue. Due to hormonal differences, men tend to have a different body fat distribution than to women. But in certain situations, men can develop fat in areas typically more associated with women.
TESTOSTERONE, OESTROGEN & FAT
This is our first major clue as to what causes men to develop moobs – increased oestrogen levels. Men typically produce a small amount of oestrogen, much in the same way women produce a small amount of testosterone. The amount of testosterone men have in relation to the amount of oestrogen creates a testosterone dominant environment. So what causes the level of testosterone ‘dominance’ to drop in men and create enough oestrogen to trigger the development of man boobs?
There can be underlying medical reasons as to why men are producing lower levels of testosterone or higher amounts of oestrogen. But the main reason men develop moobs is actually a result of them developing too much body fat, especially in combination with age related declines in the production of testosterone. This is why moobs are more prevalent in older and overweight populations.
In order to understand how excess body fat contributes to causing moobs – besides the fact there’s extra fat to store – we need to understand what the similarities are between testosterone and oestrogen and how testosterone is converted to oestrogen.
Testosterone and oestrogen are both classified as steroid hormones and are derived from cholesterol. Cholesterol often gets a bad reputation but physiologically it’s very important for producing a wide range of hormones. Cholesterol is converted by a number of enzymes into various steroid hormones, including testosterone and oestrogen. The enzyme that converts testosterone to oestrogen is called aromatase.
This is where fat tissue comes into play. Fat tissue actually contains these aromatase enzymes and the more fat we have the more conversion of testosterone to oestrogen we get and the greater the chance of developing moobs. The development of moobs also depends on an individual’s response to oestrogen; some people might only need to gain a small amount of body fat to trigger moobs, whereas others may have to become very overweight before they start to develop.
DIET, EXERCISE & STRESS
In any case, it should now be clear – at least for moobs that are caused by excess body fat stores – that the best way to reduce moobs is to focus on using diet and exercise to reduce body fat to prevent the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen.
Other lifestyle factors can have a huge impact on testosterone levels too, including drinking, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and generally poor nutrition lacking in essential vitamins and minerals – especially Vitamin D and zinc. Chronic stress is also responsible for lower testosterone as our stress hormone, cortisol, is also a steroid hormone and if the production of one steroid hormone goes up, the others tend to drop as a result.
This means that if you do suffer with moobs, aside from losing weight, we can also look to reduce other physical stressors; getting enough sleep and stopping smoking and drinking, while increasing the amount of lean protein, fruits and vegetables and eating adequate amounts of dietary fat (around 0.8g per kg of body weight) to support hormone production.
Despite the claims of some supplements, known as testosterone boosters, there is very little evidence that these actually increase natural testosterone levels. From a supplement perspective Vitamin D can be an important consideration, especially in those not getting enough sunlight, which in reality is most of us in the UK for large portions of the year. Supplementing with Vitamin D3 at around 2000-4000IU per day will help support our Vitamin D levels and aid in the production of testosterone.
Vitamin D is something a large number of the population are deficient in especially in winter as we require sunlight to synthesise it in the body. Vitamin D is not only important in the synthesis of steroid hormones, but also several other important processes in the body; supporting bone health, immune system function and even cognitive function. For these reasons Vitamin D3 is a supplement worth taking for most people regardless of their health and fitness goals.
Looking after your body using a combination of diet and exercise to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight will help to eliminate moobs and also maintain testosterone levels into older age. However, if you are an otherwise healthy and active person, not overweight and yet you still suffer with moobs, then it is always wise to get checked out by a qualified health professional as there can be deeper lying issues that may need to be addressed.
Moobs in this situation can be indicator of deeper lying hormonal issues, such as low testosterone production, which may have potential implications for fertility and long term health and wellbeing. The good news is that there are several effective treatment options available for gynecomastia and/or low testosterone, so it is something that can be treated fairly easily and see marked and rapid improvements from both an aesthetic and overall health perspective.