As of today there is still no medical or scientific consensus on the exact causes of male breasts (gynecomastia). What is generally agreed is that in the majority of cases the condition results from an imbalance between the male hormone testosterone and the female hormone oestrogen. It is thought that this is why gynecomastia effects so many adolescent boys during puberty and why so many men develop breasts in later life when their testosterone levels drop off naturally.
But for every teenager and retiree whose man boobs can be explained by natural hormonal swings and cycles there are other incidences of the condition involving men across a broad range of ages and backgrounds. In a huge number of these cases the causes remain a mystery.
So what are the possibilities? Here are a few of the likeliest suspects.
Obesity Some people view the man boobs epidemic simply as a knock on effect of the obesity epidemic. Studies have shown that obese people have lower levels of testosterone. The problem with this hypothesis is that it's far from clear whether it is the obesity which leads to the drop in testosterone or the testosterone deficiency that leads to the weight gain. There are also plenty of gynecomastia cases which effect men with relatively low fat levels. Marijuana Some studies have indicated that prolonged marijuana use may lead to reduced sex drive and reduced testosterone production Alcohol Excessive alcohol consumption has been show to inhibit testosterone secretion both in the short term and long term. Oestrogen Pollution The elephant in the room when it comes to the subject of gynecomastia. The extensive use of female contraceptive and hormone replacement products has led to a flood of oestrogen in the water system, leading to sexual abnormalities in fish and other aquatic creatures and (some suspect) to a contamination of drinking water.
Similarly the widespread use of oestrogen-like chemicals in pesticides, herbicides and animal feed has also raised concerns that the food chain may also be tainted.
Until more definitive research has been carried out it is impossible to say with any certainty which, if any, of the above factors is responsible for increased prevalence of gynecomastia in modern society.
We are also faced with the worrying possibility that there isn't one single factor responsible, but several - that it is the combination of our sedentary, over-indulgent lifestyles with the gradual chemical pollution of our environment which is causing the man boobs epidemic.
If this does turn out to be the case then there will be no quick or easy fix and the problem could be about to get an awful lot worse.Man Boobs Epidemic - What is Causing the Male Breast Phenomenon?