The president of Bolivia has said that his remarks about eating chicken turning men gay were “misconstrued”.

Evo Morales caused shock last week when he told a conference on climate change: “The chicken we eat is loaded with female hormones. So, when men eat it, they tend to deviate from their manhood.”

When gay groups accused him of being bigoted and said the comments were absurd, he sent a letter to the Spanish group Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals to say he respected their sexual freedom.

Morales’ spokesman Ivan Canelas told reporters that the anger was due to “an inadequate misinterpretation of what was said”.

He added: “Under no way did it ever cross the mind of President Morales to attack the rights of homosexuals.”

Morales also argued that eating treated chicken could turn men bald and that all Europeans would be hairless in 50 years.

He said: “Baldness, which seems normal, is a disease in Europe. Almost everyone is bald and it’s related to the food they eat. Among the indigenous people there are no bald men, because we eat different things.”