Does Beer Increase Estrogen? – What Science Says

Beer remains one of the most popular alcoholic drinks among men. But given its ingredient profile, is cracking open a cold one actually increasing estrogen levels in the body? Or is this just a myth not supported by science?

With more men concerned about maintaining healthy testosterone levels as they age, it’s important to analyze if lifestyle habits like drinking certain beverages can alter hormone balance.

Let’s objectively walk through the current research regarding beer and estrogen levels in men to find out the real deal once and for all.

Hops Contain Phytoestrogens

Unlike grapevines used to make wine, the female flowers of the hop plant contain various phytochemicals – plant compounds that can exert effects in humans. Of relevance to estrogen activity, hops contain 8-prenylnaringenin which is one of the most potent phytoestrogens discovered (1). 

Phytoestrogens are not human estrogens like estradiol or estrone, but they can activate estrogenic pathways, especially when consumed in large amounts. The rhizome of the hop plant also harbors additional yet weaker phytoestrogens.

During the brewing process these hop-derived phytoestrogens remain intact and make it into the final beer itself. Analysis shows a typical IPA beer contains anywhere from 11 to 55 micrograms per liter of 8-prenylnaringenin depending on factors like which hops are used and variability between batches (2).

So there’s no doubt that beer itself contains phytoestrogens from hops. But what effect do they actually have in the body?

Beer Raises Estrogen Levels

Controlled human studies have found that drinking beer does significantly raise estrogen levels in men over time. In one 3-week study, men drinking roughly 2-3 beers daily saw estrogen levels increase around 20% (3).

However, the magnitude of estrogenic effects seems to depend largely on the type of beer consumed. For light lagers and pilsners, the boost in estrogen appears modest even when drinking higher volumes.

However, for hop-forward beers like India Pale Ales (IPAs) or even more so for double IPAs, the phytoestrogen dose coming from generous hop additions creates substantially more estrogenic activity. Just a couple IPAs consumed regularly may spike estrogen levels by 50-100% or more (4).

The blood markers affected are primarily increases in estrone sulfate as well as prolactin levels – both biomarkers associated with feminizing effects seen with higher estrogen states. These hormonal changes begin within 30-60 minutes, peak around 2 hours post-beer consumption before slowly returning to baseline after 6+ hours as phytoestrogens clear the system (5). 

Taken together, well-controlled human studies show definitively that beer can significantly raise estrogen levels due to phytoestrogens from hops. And beer styles using more hops have greater impacts.

The Verdict on Beer and Estrogen Activity 

So what’s the bottom line – will cracking open a cold beer after work actually sabotage a man’s testosterone?

For light beers and lagers, most research suggests the estrogenic influence is mild to moderate, even in higher volumes. However for very hoppy beers like IPAs and various craft styles, drinking just 1-2 servings per day may create substantial spikes in estrogen (6).

The implication is that men need limit intake of beers with higher hop content. Otherwise the accumulating estrogens from drinking hop-forward beers multiple times weekly can definitely create negative impacts – from sexual side effects to body composition changes.

The wise approach is simply moderating beer intake focusing on traditional lagers over more bitter IPAs. This allows men to avoid anti-androgenic effects from beer’s phytoestrogens, supporting healthy testosterone balance. Or for those wanting to enhance masculinity and performance, avoiding beer altogether also remains a smart strategy.