Many men may be worried about getting a 'pot belly' from too much beer, but those who smoke cannabis should be more concerned about 'marijuana moobs', after a leading plastic surgeon warned smoking the drug could cause gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia, or man boobs, is caused by an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone levels. When a man has too much estrogen, the body is prompted to create excessive breast tissue.
Writing on cnn.com, Dr Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon based in Detroit, points to previous animal studies which found that the active ingredient in cannabis can cause “a decrease in testosterone levels, a reduction of testicular size, and abnormalities in the form and function of sperm”.
Although it is already known that marijuana use can damage sperm count, Dr Youn admits that the effect of the drug on hormone levels in humans is not clear, as tests have been limited due to its illegal status.
An early study in 1972 did nevertheless point to a connection between cannabis and gynecomastia, although a smaller test on US army soldiers five years later did not make the association.
“Although the association between marijuana and gynecomastia hasn't been conclusively proven, it appears very plausible,” writes Dr Youn.
“For this reason, the majority of plastic surgeons I've consulted with routinely inquire with their gynecomastia patients about cannabis use and recommend they stop smoking pot immediately.”
Now, with the drug gaining legal status in a number of US states, Dr Youn hopes that it will become easier for researchers to establish the effects of cannabis use on hormone levels, gynecomastia and other bodily functions.
Until then, he recommends that if you are worried about your moobs, “it's probably best to put out that joint”.
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