Health and Wellness

The far-right thinks Burger King’s Impossible Whoppers will literally turn men into women

The IMPOSSIBLE™ WHOPPER® at a Burger King restaurant in Columbus, GA. Nationwide, BK started offering this burger featuring a patty made from plants in 08/2019
Photo: Shutterstock

Fans of far right-wing media are spreading the untrue (and somewhat transphobic) rumor that Burger King’s plant-based Impossible Whopper contains enough of the female hormone estrogen to make cisgender men grow breasts.

The rumor started because of an article written by James Stangle, a South Dakota veterinarian, and printed in Tri-State Livestock News, a publication that generally opposes plant-based meat substitutes as harmful to livestock farmers’ businesses. Stangle wrote, “An Impossible Whopper has 18 million times as much estrogen as a regular Whopper.”

Related: A Christian group is protesting Burger King’s new mental health awareness promotion

The Impossible Burger is made partly of soy, a protein-rich product of soybeans which contains high concentrations of isoflavones. Isoflavones “belong to a class of compounds generally known as phytoestrogens… [which are] similar in function to human estrogen but with much weaker effects,” according to The Washington Post.

New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle told the publication that Asian men and boys have been eating large amounts of soy for centuries and, “No, they don’t grow breasts.” Any guy who might grow breasts in response to eating large amounts of soy could just have an extremely rare sensitivity to phytoestrogens, she adds.

But that hasn’t stopped right-wing publications and commenters from repeating Stangle’s lie. Conservative news outlets like the National File and MichaelSavage.com have republished articles repeating it as fact, and far-right Twitter users are amplifying the lie with some occasional transphobic comments.

Here are two such tweets:

 

This isn’t the first time that soy has been a bogeyman for “feminizing” men. In 2006, James Rutz, founder of Megashift Ministries and religion columnist for worldnetdaily.com, wrote that soy “commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion, and homosexuality.” However,  no studies have ever actually linked the ingestion of phytoestrogens to becoming gay.

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