Men may be able to avoid embarrassing sexual problems by making sure they get plenty of flavonoids – important antioxidants – in their diet. Flavonoids provide anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic benefits. They’re found in fruits, vegetables, some teas and red wine.
Researchers following 25,000 middle-aged healthy men for 2 decades found the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) dropped when men ate more fruit overall, according to a report published recently in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The men were asked about their ability to get and maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse. Although one-third of the participants reported new-onset ED, those who consumed flavonoid-rich foods were less likely to report having the condition.
“We already knew that intake of certain foods high in flavonoids may reduce the risk of conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” lead study author Aedin Cassidy, a nutrition professor at the University of East Angelia (UEA) said. “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.”
The men still had a lower risk of ED, even after scientists from UEA and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health adjusted for factors like smoking habits, caffeine consumption, weight and physical activity.
Three specific flavonoids appeared to lower the risk of ED, anthocyanins, flavnones and flavones.
Anthocyanins are abundant in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and black currant. Flavanones and flavones are found in citrus fruits.
Eating a flavonoid-rich diet was found to be as beneficial to reducing ED risk as walking briskly for up to 5 hours a week.
“Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 percent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction. In terms of quantities, we’re talking just a few portions a week,” Cassidy said in the release.
Erectile dysfunction is believed to be a warning sign of poor vascular function, and may signal future cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants slow and prevent the oxidative effects of free radicals, which can lead to cell dysfunction and the onset of heart disease and other health issues.
One flavonoid, quercetin found in apples, onions and tea helps the body prevent the chronic inflammation that can lead to hardening of the arteries and blood clots.
Senior author Dr. Eric Rimm, an epidemiology and nutrition professor at Harvard, said in the release:
“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.
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.”
Just a few servings of flavonoid-rich foods were found to cut the risk of ED, and presumably cardiovascular disease.