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Man Boobs: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Gynaecomastia can be caused by an imbalance between the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen

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Man Boobs: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Gynaecomastia (sometimes referred to as “man boobs”) is a common condition that causes boys' and men's breasts to swell and become larger than normal. It is most common in teenage boys and older men.

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According to some studies, one in four men over the age of 50 may develop gynecomastia as testosterone levels decline and the fat levels increase.

Signs of gynaecomastia

Signs vary from a small amount of extra tissue around the nipples to more prominent breasts. It can affect one or both breasts. Sometimes, the breast tissue can be tender or painful, but this isn't always the case.

Causes of gynaecomastia

Hormone imbalance

Gynaecomastia can be caused by an imbalance between the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. Oestrogen causes breast tissue to grow. While all men produce some oestrogen, they usually have much higher levels of testosterone, which stops the oestrogen from causing breast tissue to grow.

If the balance of hormones in the body changes, this can cause a man's breasts to grow. Sometimes, the cause of this imbalance is unknown.


Being very overweight (obesity) is a common cause of gynaecomastia – this is because being overweight can increase levels of oestrogen, which can cause breast tissue to grow. If you're overweight you're also more likely to have excess fat that can enlarge the breast tissue. For some people losing weight or doing more exercise can help but this may not always improve the condition.

Man Boobs: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Gynaecomastia can affect newborn baby boys, because oestrogen passes through the placenta from the mother to the baby. This is temporary and will disappear a few weeks after the baby is born.


During puberty, boys' hormone levels vary. If the level of testosterone drops, oestrogen can cause breast tissue to grow. Many teenage boys have some degree of breast enlargement. Gynaecomastia at puberty usually clears up as boys get older and their hormone levels become more stable.

Older age

As men get older, they produce less testosterone. Older men also tend to have more body fat, and this can cause more oestrogen to be produced. These changes in hormone levels can lead to excess breast tissue growth.

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Other rare causes of gynaecomastia include:

  • side effects of medicine – such as anti-ulcer drugs or medicine for heart disease
  • illegal drugs – such as cannabis or anabolic steroids
  • alcohol misuse
  • a health condition – such as kidney failure or liver disease
  • Klinefelter syndrome (a rare genetic disorder)
  • lumps or infection in the testicles

A healthy diet usually comprises of a balanced meal with equal proportions of testosterone and estrogen. This is in order to maintain the body’s hormonal levels, however, if the condition is caused due to genetic or other reasons, this tip may not be applicable.

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Foods that may cause the development of man boobs are as follows:

Soy products

Most of the soy products contain plant estrogens which mimic human estrogens, which causes the development of secondary sex characteristics in women. Consuming soy products like soy milk, tofu snacks, soybeans, and other soy-rich snacks may boost the estrogen levels, which cause the growth of man breasts.

Man Boobs: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Packaged & deep fried food

These foods have very high saturated fat content in them, which may trigger the accumulation of fat on the chest. Furthermore, packaged foods contain high estrogen which may lead to the swelling of the breast tissue.

Cold cuts and frozen meat

Not only do these have high levels of saturated fat, they are also loaded with preservatives or wrapped in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which seeps into the food and causes many harmful effects, one of which is a hormonal imbalance.

Beer & alcohol

All alcoholic drinks directly impact the liver’s ability to get rid of excess estrogen. Beer not only affects your liver, it also contains phytoestrogens that are converted into estrogen by the body. Thus, consuming excess beer does not only prevent the liver from processing existing estrogens and but also adds additional estrogen components.


This is a great natural supplement for someone who is lacking sufficient estrogen levels in their body. However, for someone experiencing a hormonal imbalance, beetroot worsens this condition by boosting the body’s estrogen level.

Dairy products

Studies have found that milk and other dairy products also contain a heavy dose of estrogens. For those who require a balance in their nutrition, milk is a good option. However, for someone who is looking for ways to reduce man boobs, regulating the intake of milk, cheese, curd, ghee, butter and the likes is advised.

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Treatment for gynaecomastia

See a GP if you're worried about breast tissue growth – they can discuss the treatment options with you.

Treatment options include:

  • medication to adjust a hormone imbalance
  • surgery to remove the excess breast tissue

Male breast reduction surgery is is available at private hospitals and clinics.

Testosterone rich diet

Eating foods like eggs, oysters, asparagus, figs, almonds, nuts, brown rice, salmon, and avocados will help in adding testosterone to your diet and reduce man boobs.

These foods are high in cholesterol, which plays a crucial role in the production of testosterone. Along with this, ingredients rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are also helpful in giving the body a testosterone boost.

Plenty of exercise

As breasts primarily consist of fatty tissue, people with breasts may find it beneficial to focus on high intensity aerobic exercises for reducing their breast size. Activities such as push ups, yoga, cycling, jogging, chest presses, swimming and free weights are all ways to burn calories.


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