Blueberries, Red Wine May Help Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
LONDON—Blueberries, red wine, citrus fruits and other flavonoid-rich foods may reduce the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED), according to a new study by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University.
Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study reveals that men—especially those under 70—who ate foods rich in certain types of flavonoids had a lower risk of developing ED. Anthocyanins (found in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and blackcurrant), flavanones and flavones (found in citrus fruits) were found to impart the greatest benefits in ED prevention.
“We already knew that intake of certain foods high in flavonoids may reduce the risk of conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is the first study to look at the association between flavonoids and erectile dysfunction, which affects up to half of all middle-aged and older men,” said lead researcher Prof. Aedin Cassidy from UEA.
Building on previous studies showing that an increase in exercise can improve ED, this study shows that a flavonoid-rich diet can be as good for ED as a brisk walk for up to five hours per week. Moreover, according to researchers, a higher total fruit intake was associated with a 14% reduction in ED risk, and a flavonoid-rich diet combined with exercise was associated with a 21% reduction in risk.
“Flavonoids are present in many plant-based foods and drinks including fruits, vegetables, tea, herbs and wine. We examined six main types of commonly consumed flavonoids and found that three in particular – anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones – are beneficial,” said Prof. Cassidy. “Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 per cent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction. In terms of quantities, we’re talking just a few portions a week.”
The study analyzed data from 25,096 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, including data on ability to have and maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse dating back to 1986 and data on diet collected every four years. Participants were middle-aged men otherwise in good health. Researchers took into account factors like body weight, physical activity, amount of caffeine consumed, and smoking.
Over one third (35.6%) of the study subjects reported new onset of ED. However, men who reported a diet rich in anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones were less likely to experience ED. Men who had the lowest risk of developing ED were physically active and consumed a diet rich in anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones.
“The top sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones consumed in the US are strawberries, blueberries, red wine, apples, pears, and citrus products,” said Prof. Cassidy.
“We also found that the benefits were strongest among younger men,” she added.
Besides reducing the risk of ED, a flavonoid-rich diet has several other health benefits.
“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 and Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “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.”