A joint study by Harvard University and the UK’s University of East Anglia has found a new dietary method to help combat erectile dysfunction.
According to a study, four in 10 men over the age of 40 suffer from erectile dysfunction, and this is in line with what we see internationally. The international average of erectile dysfunction is around five in 10 men over the age of 40.
Tumi Motsei, spokesperson for pharmaceutical company Pharma Dynamics, says erectile dysfunction is relatively common, however there is a huge stigma attached to erectile dysfunction and this unfortunately prevents many men from seeking what could turn out to be life-saving medical help.
Only 20% of men who have erectile dysfunction actually go to their doctors to seek advice, which is a big problem because there are cardiovascular diseases that are very closely linked to erectile dysfunction. Studies have shown that about two to three years after a man has presented with erectile dysfunction, he tends to present with coronary artery disease, and three to five years after this he will have an actual event.
Motsei says a poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, high cholesterol levels and other lifestyle problems can result in erectile dysfunction. But new research suggests diet can also play a large part in preventing it.
The Harvard and University of East Anglia study found that a diet full of flavonoid-rich foods – mainly red wine, red, blue and purple berries, cranberries and red grapes – aids in reducing the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Flavonoids are the compounds that are most commonly found in plant-based foods and drinks, and which are known to be full of antioxidants.
The researchers examined more than 50 000 middle-aged men, asking them at four different intervals how long they were able to have and maintain an erection that let them engage in sexual intercourse. This was done in 2000, 2004 and 2008. The men had also given a detailed history of their erectile dysfunction as far back as 1986.
The men had to provide information about their diet every four years, and the researchers had a specific focus on the six different types of flavonoids the men consumed and their effects.
At the end of the study, over a third of the men reported suffering from erectile dysfunction. The results showed that the men whose diets were rich in flavonoids had less of a chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction than those whose diets weren’t. A few portions of flavonoid-rich foods a week proved to reduce the likelihood of erectile dysfunction by 10%, with men under 70 seeing the largest benefits.
Three flavonoids were found to be particularly effective. These included anthocyanins which are most commonly found in blueberries and cherries, and flavones and flavanones, which are most commonly found in citrus fruit. These three together are found in red wine, strawberries, apples, pears and citrus fruit.
“As well as improving sexual health for middle-aged men, there is another important benefit linked to heart health. Erectile dysfunction is often an early barometer of poor vascular function and offers a critical opportunity to intervene and prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack and even death,” said Dr Eric Rimm, senior author of the study.
“Men with erectile dysfunction are likely to be highly motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising more and eating the right foods, which would greatly benefit their long-term cardiovascular health as well.”