There must be something in the air… or water. The Bolivian President Evo Morales recently asserted publicly that hormones found in mass-produced foods are “feminizing” men. Speaking about chicken in Bolivia, which he believes are “loaded with feminine hormones,” he suggested that when men eat chicken “they are diverted from their nature as men.” So, is this how metrosexuals came to be?
But wait, the Vatican commented on this issue a year earlier, although they blamed female hormones from birth control pills for the increased estrogens in ground water. Pedro Castellvi, writing in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in 2009, stated: “we have sufficient data to affirm that one of the reasons for the not insignificant rise in male infertility in the west, is the environmental contamination caused by the pill.” Actually, it’s not the birth control pill itself but the urine from women taking the pill.
In fact, to date, the urine of women taking birth control pills has been blamed for worsening sperm counts in men, the growth of female sex organs in male fish, breast growth in young men and the early onset of puberty in young girls. What next?
Can I add a little balance to this discussion? First of all, exactly what is happening to men in Bolivia such that the President is not happy with them? Are they more civilized and less disruptive? Second, male infertility is not necessarily increasing in the western world; it may even be true that men have lower sperm counts now than a generation ago not because they are less fertile but because women are more fertile. Third, estrogens are found everywhere in the environment including in many plants (phytoestrogens) such as soy and legumes, and are not produced exclusively from the urine of women. Fourth, the intersex conditions that have been reported in many animal species tend to be caused by a very specific exposure at a very specific time point during fetal development and have been linked to pesticides, bisphenol A, dioxins and other environmental contaminants (xenoestrogens). Fifth, did we somehow forget about the worldwide obesity epidemic in humans and the fact that fat converts male hormones to female hormones? Lastly, there is little evidence that substantially increasing a man’s estrogen levels as an adult will dramatically alter anything, except maybe waist size and color preferences. Where the truth lies in all of this is currently unknown, but it is hard for me as a urologist to see how women’s urine could be blamed for so much.