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Burger King’s plant-based Impossible Whopper made a big splash on the fast-food scene when it arrived last summer.
Now conservatives are spreading a theory that the vegan burgers will give men breasts.
The rumor is based on an article in the Tri-State Livestock News, a commercial cattlemen’s publication. Written by a veterinarian, the article says that eating enough Impossible Whopper can cause manboobs because the burger has 18 million times more estrogen than a regular Whopper.
“Just six glasses of soy milk per day [emphasis added] has enough estrogen to grow boobs on a male,” it states. “That’s the equivalent of eating four Impossible Whoppers per day.”
It’s long been rumored that soy milk causes men to grow breasts because it contains phytoestrogen, a naturally-occurring compound found in a host of plant-based foods and beverages, including strawberries, apples, carrots, almonds, yams, lentils, coffee, beer, and bourbon, according to Medical News Today. Phytoestrogen mimics estrogen when consumed by humans.
However, scientific evidence that consuming phytoestrogen causes gynecomastia, the medical term for enlarged breasts on men, is sorely lacking.
“Since male transgender patients take estrogens to stimulate breast growth, it has been assumed that soy might have the same effect,” Men’s Journal reports, “This appears to be a myth, or at least is not supported in the medical literature.”
Nevertheless, the rumor took hold, prompting the Washington Post to debunk it. The Post noted that Tri-State Livestock News is written for cattle ranchers who have “declared war” on plant-based meat substitute manufacturers Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which supplies the Impossible Whopper patties.
No, there’s no evidence that eating Impossible Whoppers will give men breasts https://t.co/hdC7TvZMqf— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 27, 2019
Alas, facts matter little on the far-right in the face of titillating misinformation, so the rumor continues taking root.
The National File editor-in-chief Tom Pappert wrote a piece that misleadingly implied that the original article was written by a medical, not veterinary, doctor, before concluding, “In short, the Impossible Burger is a genetically modified organism filled with calorie-dense oils that can make a man grow breasts if eaten in sufficient quantity.” Fellow InfoWars contributor Paul Joseph Watson also weighed in, writing, “The science on whether substantial soy consumption feminizes men is still disputed, although given what many soy enthusiasts look and sound like, there appears to be a strong correlation.”
On Twitter, one conspiracy theorist commented, “Deep soy strikes again.”
Transphobia was a common theme in tweets spreading the rumor.
Dudes..Do you want to grow Breasts?— Alpha OmegaEnergy (@AOECOIN) December 26, 2019
East the #Impossibleburger. It has enough Estrogen to make you grow those Trans lookin' tits you always wanted!
Boy it sucks that you can't short private companies isn't it?
FLUSHHHHH you can hear the value toilet flushing!#FrogsGay pic.twitter.com/ed7sQMLkw1
Healthy young man goes to Burger King, gets pumped with massive shot of Impossible Whoppers, doesn't feel good and changes - BREASTS. Many such cases!— Justin Whang 🐙 (@JustinWhang) December 25, 2019
Sure, let's turn our boys into girls fast!!! What a great agenda!— Leonard Roxon (@LeonardRoxon) December 27, 2019
Social engineering is not enough apparently these days, so let's do it with the food that we eat!https://t.co/86hx0BwUbp
Look, I've got no interest in eating fake burgers made of plants anyway, but I keep seeing tweets about Burger King's "Impossible Burger" containing some absurd amount of estrogen. 😂 How could they make any money buying estrogen to add to plant burgers? What would be the point?— THATISABSURDITY.COM (@AuthorofAbsurd) December 27, 2019
Eat real meat. Save the Planet.— Tom Luongo (@TFL1728) December 27, 2019
Fuck Vegans. That is all.https://t.co/E3rgZ9VSRY
Many people pushed back against the rumor.
Some noted that the nutritional content of cuisine at Burger King (or any fast food, for that matter) can cause moobs. “I’m pretty sure it’s soda big gulps and super sized orders of fries that are causing men to grow breasts, not impossible burgers,” @rob_breeding tweeted.
Others cautioned that people should consider the source.
There is no overlap in the venn diagram of men who think the impossible whopper will give them breasts and the men who would even read this article, let alone believe it https://t.co/fDlej4K0vX— Andy Schmickle (@GoalieLax) December 27, 2019
So men, you can eat all the impossible burgers that you want and you won't grow breasts at all. I mean... you might gain weight, if you eat enough, but no breasts. I promise. It's kinda fun to watch some people freak out about this, though.— Elli 'you mean you forgot cranberries too' (@EllipsisGoblins) December 27, 2019
Dear everyone on Keto-Twitter gleefully posting this article from an alt-right website suggesting that the Impossible Burger will cause men to grow breasts because it has soy: did you read to the bottom and notice that the author works for Alex Jones? https://t.co/Uh8l6bxJav pic.twitter.com/uICRk5vmTu— Eric O'Grey (@Eric_OGrey) December 26, 2019
This is as dumb as saying wind energy causes cancer.— Julie Kay 🎶 (@JulieKay0914) December 27, 2019
"an impossible whopper [sic] has 18 million times as much estrogen as a regular whopper [sic]. Just six glasses of soy milk per day has enough estrogen to grow boobs on a male.”https://t.co/HTMDVFLqDR
Neither Burger King nor Impossible Foods have weighed in on the rumor.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.