Documentaries like Game Changers have done a lot in terms of persuading people – largely blokes – that you can be super fit and plant-based.
However, the idea still prevails that eating meat is more masculine than chomping on carrots – which is why terms like soy boy are often used as a way of undermining the masculinity of vegan guys (and any men who don’t fit a rig definition of what makes them an ‘alpha’).
However, it turns out that men who eat a plant-based diet are just as testosterone-fuelled as their carnivorous brethren.
A recent study published in the World Journal of Urology looked at the blood testosterone levels of 191 cisgender men. Researchers looked to see if there was any difference in hormonal levels between those who ate meat and those who didn’t, with readings below 33 ng/dL considered to be testosterone deficient.
And – shock – they found that there was no difference between the testosterone levels of vegans and meat-eaters. The data was divided into three sets, according to the reported diets of the participants: omnivorous, plant-based, and healthy plant-based.
‘We found a plant-based diet was associated with normal testosterone levels, levels that are the same as occur in men who eat a traditional diet that includes more meat,’ explained co-author of the study and Director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at the University of Miami, Dr Ranjith Ramasamy.
Interestingly, there was also no difference between the healthy and ‘regular’ plant-based diets (the latter which included things like junk food).
‘Whether a man ate a traditional diet with lots of animal foods, a healthy plant-based diet or a less healthy plant-based diet, simply did not matter,’ remarked co-author Manish Kuchakulla.
‘We found no difference.’
So, what about soy?
So yes, you can still be a macho-macho man while swerving boiled chicken and steak. Let’s leave the whole ‘real men eat meat’ rhetoric to people who give themselves scurvy to prove a point against vegans.
As for the idea that soy can lower testosterone, that is not really true.
When Impossible Burgers launched their Whopper, a cattle vet called James Stangle published a takedown based on the fact that the main ingredient was soy protein.
The Atlantic reports him as claiming that ‘an Impossible Whopper has 18 million times as much oestrogen as a regular whopper’, and that eating four Impossible Burgers per day (why would you do this?!) ‘has enough oestrogen to grow boobs on a male’.
The scientists at fact-checking site Health Feedback issued this rebuttal: ‘Inaccurate: Soy does not contain oestrogen, which is a mammalian hormone’.
Soy contains phytoestrogens which can mimic oestrogen in human cells but we don’t really know to what extent. The fact that many men in Asian countries live off things such as tofu and haven’t turned into women yet does suggest that this is just a misogynistic fear promoted by guys whose worst nightmare is losing an ounce of their hyper-masculinity.
In actual fact, studies looking into the effect of these plant hormones on men have only really found health benefits.
One randomised trial saw men taking high doses of soy phytoestrogen every day for three months. Rather than grow boobs, they improved their blood sugar and reduced signs of inflammation.
TL;DR plant-based eating has nothing to do with perceived societal standards of masculinity. Duh.
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