Some men will do anything to get an edge when it comes to their bodies — even, apparently, drinking human breast milk.
But unfortunately for these manly men, this latest trend in the masculinity market may not be all that some people believe it's cracked up to be. Indeed, for grown men, drinking breast milk is at best an expensive habit with no proven health benefits and at worst a health risk that could be taking milk away from someone that actually needs it.
Here's what's happening: Several news outlets recently found out that men are buying human breast milk through milk exchange websites. Ostensibly, these men are looking for the new, all-natural Red Bull.
"It gives me incredible energy I don't get from other food and drinks," an athlete from Queens identified only as Anthony told New York Magazine recently. "I don’t believe in steroids or other energy supplements, none of that garbage ... I want natural stuff that’'s God-given, and if it's okay with moms looking to get rid of it, I'll take it."
The health claims of breast milke believers like Anthony are twofold: first, that breast milk is a sort of super substance that keeps you healthy, and second, that it is an amazing natural muscle-building supplement.
Image Credit: Getty
But are these claims real?
Dr. Lara Walsh, a pediatrician at Maine General Health Associates told PolicyMic via email that although breast milk is ideal for infants and toddlers, "It has no noticeable health benefits for adults."
This hasn't stopped men like BodyBuilding.com forum's Lefticle (The Besticle) from publicly supporting breast milk as "the greatest supplement ever," saying that it has the perfect composition for a muscle-building supplement and that many famous body builders, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, credited it with their success. (Ironically, in Pumping Iron, Arnold claims that "milk is for babies"). This particular proponent cites personal experience, stories from other trainers, and "clinical studies." Unsurprisingly, there are no actual links to these clinical studies, and Dr. Walsh said there is reason to be highly skeptical.
"I doubt it would aid in muscle gain or energy more than other sources of sugar or protein," she told PolicyMic.
So at best, it seems breast milk is no better than conventional health and muscle-building supplements. The difference is it's unlikely you'll contract Hepatitis from a GNC protein supplement. "Breast milk can be a source of infection, such as Hepatitis C and HIV," Walsh said.
The federal governement seems to agree. In a section of their website titled "Use of Donor Human Milk," the FDA discourages purchasing or soliciting such fluids from donors directly over the Internet, since "the donor is unlikely to have been adequately screened for infectious disease or contamination risk." It instead recommends getting a prescription from a doctor or contacting the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
It's important to note that these recommendations, of course, are for mothers who have difficulty lactating sufficiently, not men who have difficulty finding the "perfect" muscle gain supplement.
Plus, last year the New York Times reported that an investigation into popular milk donation websites found that "64 percent of the samples from milk-sharing sites were contaminated with staph, 36 percent with strep, and almost three-quarters with other bacterial species."
Image Credit: Getty
However, there may be another, even more unconventional reason some of these men are seeking out breast milk — and it has nothing to do with health benefits.
An Internet search about the health benefits of breast milk for grown men yields no scientific backing for health claims. But it does turn up many, many pages devoted to the breast milk fetish. (We’ll let you discover the wonders of that rather NSFW community on your own.)
Even the "Men Buying Breast Milk" category in the classifieds at OnlyTheBreast.com — "A Community for Moms to Buy, Sell, & Donate Natural Breast Milk" — degenerates quickly into thinly veiled sexual requests. It's hard to believe that "a 41 yr old single professional guy looking for freshly pumped breast milk (no shipping) for health reasons" has actual health reasons in mind.
That said, a breast milk fetish, if pursued responsibly, isn't a problem. But men making it any more difficult for mothers that want natural breast milk for their babies is, especially if there is no clear reason to do so. There is also no evidence that it is a super-food or particularly suited to muscle gain, and it carries the potential risk of viral infection.
At present, despite the disproportionate media coverage, this breast milk trends seems to be an unusual fad with a small impact. Let's keep it that way.