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Boy grows breasts, showing hidden dangers of junk food to our kids

One of his breasts grew to an A-cup size...

When your daughter starts growing breasts, it’s a sign that they she's growing up. But when your boy grows breasts, that’s a different matter altogether.

In China, a boy nicknamed “Xiao Fang” had the surprise of his young life. He noticed that his breasts were growing when he was 13 years old. Six years later, doctors had to perform a mastectomy to remove the boy’s A-cup size breast.

Doctors at China’s Zhejiang Wenzhou Central Hospital found Fang's body to be in otherwise perfect condition.

Boy grows breasts in condition called gynecomastia

boy grows breasts Photo by AsiaWire

"The right side of the patient's body resembles a woman, while the left a man," Chief of Medicine Pan Zhongliang told the Qianjiang Evening Post.

Medical science refers to the condition as gynecomastia, which is characterized as the swelling of the breast tissue in boys or men. It is linked to an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone, according to  Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD.

Medical professionals have commonly found this condition in newborns, boys going through puberty, and older men who develop it as a result of normal changes in hormone levels.

Gynecomastia can go away on its own. However, in Feng's case, surgery was the best (if not the only) option to reduce breast tissue.

Fang's unnecessary breast tissue was removed in a mastectomy. He remained in the hospital for several days to recover and was discharged from the hospital five days later.

Boy grows breasts, among many cases in the world

boy grows breasts "Fang" after surgery | Photo by AsiaWire

According to Zhongliang, excess breast tissue is not likely to grow back after the surgery. The final results of gynecomastia surgery may take three to six months to achieve. Though the incision lines are permanent, they will fade over time.

Fang will now be able to resume activities like swimming and playing sports with friends without his breast getting in the way.

In the United States, surgery to correct gynecomastia can cost between $3,000 to $10,000. Its high cost already makes it inaccessible.

In addition, insurance companies don't cover it because they don't deem it medically necessary. Yet, gynecomastia-related surgeries have risen by 36 percent since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr. Adrian Lo, a plastic surgeon specializing in gynecomastia, performs four or five of these procedures a week.

“The men I see are usually pretty fit,” he told Men's Health. “But most men with gynecomastia qualify for surgery even if they’re not an ideal weight.”

Hormone imbalance reason why boy grows breasts

There are men who develop pubescent gynecomastia, which will not go away naturally, like Fang. Typically, the testicles produce both estrogen and testosterone.

But in early puberty, some boys may not have enough free testosterone to counteract the estrogen. This hormone imbalance is reflected by the growth of breast tissue.

Certain kinds of food are linked to these imbalances, which can lower testosterone and raise estrogen levels, causing male breast tissue growth. For example, a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet can lead to body inflammation, increasing estrogen levels and breast tenderness. High-carbohydrate, fatty food includes pastries, french fries, milkshakes, and fried chicken.

Take the case of a 21-year-old Chinese student whose go-to snack was friend chicken. He too grew breasts, just like young Fang. And the cause was identified as the hormones in his favorite snack.

Similarly, medications can also affect the growth of breast tissue in men. A study published in the journal American Family Physician found up to 25 percent of gynecomastia cases are caused by meds. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, cholesterol drugs, hair loss treatments, and anabolic steroids, among many more, lead to breast tissue enlargement.

Boy grows breasts, fast food is probably cause

Fang’s doctors have linked the phenomenon to eating too much fast food. His breast growth is due to a hormonal imbalance brought on by the "gender bending" chemicals in fast food, his doctors believe.

There are also studies that have looked into the role of meat enhanced by hormones like zeranol in promoting breast growth and eventually, breast cancer.  

But the effects of fast food on the body don't just stop there. A new research into the link between high-fat diets and the immune system described eating fast food as akin to giving your body a bacterial infection.

Dangers of the "Western diet"

Scientists described high-fat and high-calorie foods as the “Western diet” and said that when they put mice on the regimen, it “induced systemic inflammation” that persisted even after the mice were back on their normal diets, a study in the journal Cell explains.

The food in the diet of the mice contained a lot of fat and sugar and not much fibre. Under the diet, the mouse's immune system’s inflammatory response was similar to how it would behave in the presence of a bacterial infection.

“The unhealthy diet led to an unexpected increase in the number of certain immune cells in the blood of the mice,” researcher Anette Christ said in a statement from the University of Bonn in Germany.

Although the inflammation dissipated once the unhealthy diet was replaced with a better one, the genetic changes linked to an aggressive immune response that the "Western diet" brought on remained.

Hijacked by immune system

This kind of lingering effect is not unheard of. The body uses a sort of “memory” of its past experiences to better protect itself in the future. In most cases, those past experiences are often for infections. When a dangerous pathogen comes along, it unlocks the immune system’s memories so the body’s defenses can mount a faster and more effective response.

The new research extends this concept to food with poor nutritional value. According to the scientists, having a more stimulated immune system could have health consequences down the road, like diabetes and heart problems.

“The foundations of a healthy diet need to become a much more prominent part of education than they are at present,” researcher Eicke Latz says.

“Only in this way can we immunize children at an early stage against the temptations of the food industry. Children have a choice of what they eat every day. We should enable them to make conscious decisions regarding their dietary habits.”

Parents, remember: fast food once in a while is okay. But too much consumption of it could have negative health consequences. Eat safe, stay safe!

 

Sources: Medical Daily (1, 2), NCBI, The Doctors, Qianjian Evening News

You can also read: Ultra processed foods and cancer: foods that may be slowly killing you

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore