By Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS

Marie Spano, MS, RD/LD, FISSN, CSCS is one of the leading sports nutrition and nutrition communications experts in North America.Currently serving as Vice President of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, she has helped elite, professional and amateur athletes go beyond their personal best and achieve maximum performance in their respective sport.

The feminization trend among American men may have an environmental basis. If you find yourself feeling weepy and needing a training bra, it could be because of man-made chemicals that are absorbed into the body and mimic or block certain hormones, thereby potentially disrupting our body’s normal hormones. Endocrine disrupters are present in shampoos, sunscreens, and various plastics. They can lower your manly testosterone and bump up your girly estrogens. A group of compounds called phthalates may be one of the chief culprits. Here’s a chart of the nasty stuff and what it can do to you:

Potential endocrine disrupters:

Chemical Found In Potential Issues
Oxybenzone (aka benzophenone-3) Sunscreens Weak estrogenic effects, anti-androgenic effects (lowered testosterone); readily absorbed into the skin; helps other chemicals penetrate the skin; allergic skin reaction upon exposure to sunlight
Phthalates Building materials, air fresheners, plastic containers, plastic food wrap, teething rings, cosmetic products, soft toys Reproductive system birth defects, hormonal alteration in baby boys, reproductive problems and hormonal changes in men
Bisphenol A Metal lining in some food and soda cans Estrogenic properties, low sperm count

Follow these steps to minimize your risk:

  1. Go fragrance-free; most lotions and several shower products smell like small baby girls anyway. Choose unscented versions.
  2. Choose sunscreens with zinc and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients.
  3. Avoid heating foods in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramic instead.
  4. Never microwave foods in plastic wrap.
  5. Microwave packaged meals by placing them on a ceramic plate.
  6. Minimize pesticide use in your yard.
  7. Choose organic when possible and wash your produce well, especially:
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Grapes
  • Corn
  • Lettuce