The Effects of Beer Phytoestrogens
There are three types of environmental estrogen mimickers that humans consistently come in contact with: phytoestrogens, xenoestrogens, and metalloestrogens. Phytoestrogens come from certain types of plants, including soy, xenoestrogens come from man-made toxins and chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, and plastics, and metalloestrogens come from certain metals, including, aluminum, barium, lead, and mercury . While all three of these environmental estrogen mimickers could influence an individual’s estrogen level, cause feminization, and result in adverse consequences, there is one common estrogen mimicker source many Americans are exposed to: beer.
Early Research on Plant Phytoestrogens
Scientists first discovered plants could contain estrogen-mimicking compounds in 1951 when two Australian scientists were given the task of finding the cause of an “epidemic of infertility in sheep that was ravaging their nation's wool industry” . After ten years of research, they understood the cause of the phenomenon: a compound called genistein which was present in a type of clover. More interesting, though, is that genistein is the same phytoestrogen found in soybeans.
Though scientists have noticed the feminization effects of soy in people who eat as little as 14 to 20 servings of soy a day , these sheep were consuming A LOT of this phytoestrogen. You would have to drink more than 1,000 cartons of soymilk a day or eat about 800 pounds of tofu a day to consume as much genistein as the sheep.
After it was discovered plants could have estrogenic compounds, German researchers realized that perhaps the reason why women who handled hops started to menstruate was because of estrogenic compounds in the hops, a compound used in beer production . Indeed, the researchers discovered genistein in hops . However, it was a minuscule amount, so the researchers still could not fully explain the scenario.
But in 1999, a very potent phytoestrogen called 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN) was discovered in hops, which is one of the most potent phytoestrogens found to date and is more than 50 times more estrogenic than the genistein in soy . This illuminated the German scenario and finally gave enough information to close the chapter.
Since today machines normally pick the hops, the only way we could be exposed would be during beer consumption, but 8-PN levels in beer are so small they should not be of any concern. That changed in 2001.
In 2001, researchers found another estrogenic compound in hops called isoxanthohumol. They also found that isoxanthohumol turned into 8-PN when it was metabolized by the liver in mice . However, researchers found it was not metabolized by the liver the same way in humans , but instead it was metabolized similarly in the gut by the gut’s microorganisms . The conversion was so efficient and effective the researchers noted the microorganisms in the gut alone seemed to act as another organ in the body altogether .
So, this is a timeline of what we know:
- 1951: Clover and soy contain genistein; there are estrogenic mimickers in plants
- 1992: Researchers discovered genistein in hops
- 1999: A phytoestrogen called 8-PN was discovered in hops, but 8-PN levels are so low in beer they should not cause any noticeable effects
- 2001: Researchers discovered isoxanthohumol in hops
- Isoxanthohumol turned into 8-PN in human guts due to the gut’s microorganisms
This information could explain why there are measurable levels of the phytoestrogen 8-PN in the urine of beer drinkers since the microorganisms in the gut keep making it. We now have direct information to explain the estrogenic effects of beer in men.
Typically, the liver clears and removes excess estrogens from the body, so early scientists hypothesized that alcohol-induced liver damage led to the retention of excess estrogens since the liver’s filtering function declined as a result of this damage. However, with this hypothesis, scientists noticed a paradoxical occurrence: men’s testicles started to shrink even before the effects of liver disease began to taint the liver’s ability to clear excess estrogens. Therefore, the hypothesis was inaccurate.
So, if the estrogens were not coming from inside the body, alcoholic men must be exposing themselves to estrogens from an external source – perhaps from the phytoestrogens in plants that are used to make beer .
Moreover, scientists have found that alcoholic men often display phenotypic changes, which are bodily changes due to influences from their environment. In their case, the influence would be beer, so researchers dubbed the consequences of alcohol consumption as Feminization of the Alcoholic .
Most common, these direct phenotypic changes are low serum testosterone and elevated estrogen levels, even though the liver is supposed to remove excess estrogens from the body, which could lead to men developing breast-like tissue and fat  . Further, additional research models demonstrated alcohol-fed male rats experienced reduced hepatic activity of two androgen-dependent estrogen-clearing enzymes .
Scientists are continuing to research the effects of alcohol consumption on hormone and estrogen levels in men and women.
In 2000, researchers investigated the effects that moderate alcohol consumption has on female hormone levels and reproductive system . The researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption was linked to decreased progesterone levels in pre-menopausal women, such could influence female health, fertility, and the timing menopause starts .
Additionally, research has found that drinking alcohol and taking hormone replacement therapy at the same some can increase the risk of breast cancer in women, so the effects are not solely male-related .
Natural Substances to Support Proper Estrogen Levels
There are two natural substances and supplements that can help support healthy estrogen levels and detox the body of excess estrogens: DIM and curcumin.
Without getting super technical, DIM has been found to support hormone metabolism and immune activity and stimulate antioxidant and detoxification systems . In 2002, researchers noted that the body’s metabolism of externally and internally derived estrogens was vital for proper hormone balance .
Researchers have observed that DIM promoted the metabolism of estrogen into favorable and protective forms (2-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE) metabolite instead of 4-hydroxyestrone (4-OHE) and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone (16-alphaOHE) metabolites) . Additionally, DIM has been studied for its role in supporting prostate health by reducing dihydrotestosterone binding to androgen receptors  .
For example, in 2000, researchers found that DIM inhibited prostate cancer growth , and in 2004, researchers found that DIM improves the estrogen profile in postmenopausal women with a history of early-stage breast cancer .
Further, research on DIM suggests that it plays an important role in activating detoxification enzymes in human hepatocytes, a type of liver cell, which further supports biotransformation and detoxification in the liver .
Curcumin, a component in turmeric, has also been shown to have beneficial effects in estrogen dominant environments.
In 2011, researchers found that curcumin counteracted the proliferative effects of estradiol, a type of estrogen hormone .
Additionally, in 1998, researchers investigated various dietary strategies individuals can integrate into their lifestyle to prevent the stimulated growth of breast tumors by environmental estrogens. The researchers found that curcumin may have preventative and therapeutic applications against the growth of breast tumors induced by environmental estrogens .
Moreover, a 2008 study found that curcumin may be an anticancer agent because of how it supports healthy cell-life regulation in human n embryonic kidney cells and normal prostate cells because of its estrogen effects .
To summarize, we now have a full picture as to how beer and alcohol consumption can increase estrogen levels and cause harmful hormonal effects in men and women. Particularly in men, beer consumption can lead to increased estrogen levels and decreased testosterone levels, which can cause testicular shrinkage along with other phenotypic changes.
Furthermore, there are two natural substances which have been shown to assist in proper estrogen metabolism: DIM and curcumin.
Healthmasters’ Dimension: Estrogen Control contains both of these supplements, along with black pepper extract to increase the ingredient's bioavailability.
If you are interested in trying or have any questions about Healthmasters’ Dimension: Estrogen Control, please feel free to call our office at 800.726.1834.
 Adapted from https://nutritionfacts.org/2019/06/04/beer-phytoestrogens/ with additional research, information, and explanation added