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Scientific Review Finds "Breast Enhancement" Pills Not Effective

Consumer Lab

Manufacturers of breast supplements proudly proclaim that their products will "feed," "develop," "nurture," and "beautify" a woman's breasts. And in case you have doubts, they provide first-person testimonials and scientific statements to bolster the belief that these products do, indeed, work. But do they? Is there any basis for these claims?

That's the question, a company that conducts scientific literature review and product evaluations, set out to answer. And now their report is in: There is no evidence, reports, that any of the current dietary supplements marketed for breast enhancement are effective or that the science they use to support their claims is credible.

These claims can be made because there is no federal entity that oversees "holistic" or "homeopathic" products-they do not need FDA approval or even have to be proved effective before they can be sold.

Breast enhancement products typically exploit common misunderstandings about what herbs and "phytoestrogens" can and cannot do. For example, the advertisements claim that since a woman's estrogen is what naturally causes her breasts to grow, products like soy, red clover, flaxseed, black cohosh, saw palmetto, and wild Mexican yam will do the same.

But that is not how soy and other "phytoestrogens" work. These products actually have an anti-estrogenic effect on the breast in premenopausal women. (In postmenopausal women they appear to have more of an estrogenic effect.) This means that even if these products contained what the manufacturers claim they do (and they don't always), they would not be able to make a woman's breasts grow.

[Although the word "phytoestrogen" is now used frequently to describe the estrogen found in plant-based products, the term is actually a misnomer. "Phytoestrogens" should really be called "phytoserms" (selective estrogen receptor modulators). SERMs, like Tamoxifen, are estrogenic in some organs and anti-estrogenic in other organs-and that's the affect these plant-based products have as well.]

Further, and more importantly, if these products could enhance breast size, they would actually be dangerous. This is because if they did work, the estrogen they were exposing women to could, in fact, increase the risk for breast cancer.

Do the products contained in these pills do anything? Saw palmetto is said to increase milk production in nursing mothers, but that does not mean it would enlarge breast size. And while it is true that wild Mexican yam was at one time used to produce synthetic progesterone, it is hormonally inactive in humans.

The bottom-line: your breast size is as genetically determined as your hair color or your height.

About one-third of your breast is fat tissue; the other two-thirds or so is breast tissue. If you gain weight, the fat in your breast will grow along with the fat in other parts of your body and your breasts will become larger. In turn, if you lose weight, you will lose fat in your breasts and your breasts will become smaller.

Since you can't make yourself lose or gain weight in one specific part of your body, you can't gain weight only in your breasts. The only real option for enhancing breast size-other than certain types of bras or silicone breast implants-are exercises that build the chest muscles that support your breasts. These exercises won't actually change your breast size, but they may make your breasts look larger.

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