Guest Opinion by Dr. Jim Stangle, DVM: The Impossible Whopper Retraction (Sort of) | TSLN.com
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Guest Opinion by Dr. Jim Stangle, DVM: The Impossible Whopper Retraction (Sort of)

Dr. Jim Stangle, DVM

Wow! I never expected the response I got from my Impossible Whopper article. I’ve written dozens of articles for our small local paper and none of them have ever gone viral.

Most of the response was to the comment that if a guy ate four impossible whoppers per day, he would eventually grow breasts. To be true, there is no evidence that this can happen. I was just bouncing off the May 19, 2009 article in Men’s Health about James Price. James Price consumed three quarts of soy milk a day and developed gumball sized lumps in his breasts. He had other side effects that you guys might want to check out. One occasional impossible whopper would not grow breasts on a guy. As with any food, moderation is important.

The other part of the article that got a lot of attention was the statement that an impossible whopper has 18 million times as much estrogen as a beef whopper. I will retract that statement and put it into a more meaningful context.

For starters I compared the isoflavone content of the soy protein in an impossible whopper straight across to the estrogen content of a beef whopper. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, plant estrogens that have 1,000 times less activity than estrogen. That still means that soy protein contains 18 thousand times more estrogen than beef. However, even that may not be accurate. A grad student from Montana contacted me in response to the 18 million figure. He sent me a paper that put everything into context. The title of the paper is, Comparison of Estrogenic Equivalents per Serving Size of Some Common Foods, Journal of Food Science. Sci-hub.tw/10.1111/1750-3841.14847. by Shappell, N. W., et al.

According to this paper a tofu (soy) burger has 750 times as much estrogenic bioactivity as does a beef burger from a hormone implanted steer. What’s more, the tofu burger has three times the estrogenic activity of the estrogen replacement therapy drug, Premarin 125 mg. So this begs the question should a women already on hormone replacement therapy eat an impossible whopper? Premarin has been linked to breast and ovarian cancer in some women. I am NOT suggesting that an occasional impossible whopper will increase the risk of cancer. Again, moderation is the key. Women on estrogen replacement therapy are typically on it for seven years.

My overall point which I didn’t make in the original article is that beef is constantly berated for having been grown with hormone implants. If you dislike beef for that reason, then an impossible whopper is not a healthier alternative. It is also disingenuous to say that chicken and pork are grown without added hormones. This implies that there are no hormones in poultry or pork which is impossible. All animals and people need hormones to grow and survive. One egg contains 2.5 times more estrogen than a beef whopper. In the long run it does not matter if the impossible whopper has 18 million or 750 times as much estrogen as beef because it is just as impossible to eat 750 beef whoppers in a day as it is to eat 18 million of them.

Finally, I would like to apologize to Dan and Gayla, (the only two residents of Milesville, SD) for letting the world know where Milesville is located. And for those of you on Facebook who think I belong to some right wing conservative think tank, I don’t think people who participate in think tanks would come out here where you would be 70 miles from the nearest Wal-mart. My think tanks are the dinner tables of the hundreds of farmers and ranchers who are my neighbors, clients and friends.

P.S. From one of the posts I read, cows have been making plants taste like meat forever… Just saying.

Dr. Stangle (there is no R for those of you citing his name using an autocorrect) is a beef cow/calf veterinarian with 30 years of experience and counting. He is past president of the South Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, (2006). South Dakota Veterinarian of the year, (2013). He is a member of the America Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, and the Society for Theriogenology.


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