More than 18 million men in the U.S. are estimated to have erectile dysfunction (ED). The projected worldwide prevalence of ED is expected to exceed 322 million men by 2025.
ED is not only a sexual health problem, it's also an indicator of cardiovascular risk. ED is caused by poor blood vessel (vascular) function and is considered to be an early marker for cardiovascular disease. The time between early onset ED and cardiovascular disease is typically 2-5 years.
Why discuss ED in a nutrition blog? Because it appears that ED risk can be reduced with a healthy diet and other lifestyle choices.
A prospective study of over 25,000 men from the Health Professionals Cohort looked at diet and symptoms of ED over 10 years. The men's diets were assessed for flavonoid content. Flavonoids are bioactive compounds found in foods such as fruits and vegetables. A growing body of evidence suggests that flavonoids play a role in vascular function and blood pressure.
In this group of men, those with the highest flavonoid intake were found to have a 10 percent lower risk of developing ED. This equates to 2-5 hours of brisk walking a week. Diet and exercise combined have the potential to improve sexual and cardiovascular health for many millions of men worldwide.
How can you eat more flavonoids? A wide variety of whole foods such a fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain a variety of flavonoids. The Mediterranean diet is rich in flavonoids.
Here are some ideas to help you add flavonoid-rich foods to your diet:
- Breakfast: Try a whole-grain cereal mixture that includes buckwheat and chia seeds. Add raspberries, blueberries or currants. Add unsweetened cocoa to your coffee.
- Lunch: Make a cabbage salad with peppers, onions, edamame, and nuts or seeds. Top with a drizzle of Asian-style dressing made with olive oil and ginger. Enjoy a cup of green tea.
- Dinner: Top broiled fish with capers, herbs and lime juice. Dip your favorite raw vegetables in baba ghanoush, an eggplant-based dip. Enjoy a glass of wine or 100 percent fruit juice with your meal.
So men take note: A healthy diet, specifically one rich in flavonoids, together with regular physical activity and maintenance of a healthy weight, can help you maintain your sexual and cardiovascular health.
Feb. 02, 2016
- Cassidy A, et al. Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In press. Accessed Feb. 1, 2016.