Male breasts are the pair of elephants in the thoracic room. But as of Monday, male mammaries will be overlooked no longer: Today, the Oxford English Dictionary officially added the word moobs to its famed lexicon, affirming the need to treat the unusual male outgrowths with gravity and respect. Here is how the storied linguists at the OED have defined the term:
Moobs: Unusually prominent breasts on a man, typically as a result of excess fat.
Moobs, though often unexpected and delightfully quivery, are no laughing matter. Medically, the condition in which one develops moobs is known as gynecomastia, and it’s thought to affect half of men, according to a study published in 2004 in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Their presence is often chalked up to one of several underlying health issues, none of which should be taken lightly.
The most common reason for moob development is, intuitively, an excess of fat. This, in turn, can be caused by more than just overeating. Some research shows that moobs might be the result of a hormonal imbalance in which the estrogen-to-androgen ration is off-kilter; as a small study published in the Journal of Andrology suggested in 2002, the growth of a moob might result from the excess conversion of testosterone — an androgen — to estradiol, a female sex hormone.
Food deprivation might also lead to their formation. As a study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics outlined in 2012, moobs were first seriously considered by academics after World War II, when malnourished prisoners developed them after weeks spent in a prison camp. It was suggested that poor nutrition led to a decreased secretion of the hormone gonadotropin, and when a proper diet was restored, the restoration of normal gonadotropin levels led to a “puberty like state” or “second puberty,” which may lead to moob growth.
A few studies have also shown that excessive marijuana or alcohol abuse may lead to moob formation.
Can moobs be eliminated? With a little bit of intervention, whether physical or pharmacological — sure. Do they need to be? That’s another debate altogether.
The future of moobs rests on our willingness to have conversations about them. And now, thanks to the breast-positive folks over at the OED, having those conversations just got a whole lot easier.