14 Jan 2016 --- Flavonoid-rich foods are associated with a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction – according to a new collaborative study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University.
The study also showed that a higher total fruit intake was associated with a 14 per cent reduction in the risk of erectile dysfunction. And that a combination of consuming flavonoid-rich foods with exercise can reduce the risk by 21 per cent.
Lead researcher Prof Aedin Cassidy from UEA said, “We know from clinical trials that some flavonoids can improve blood pressure, make our arteries more flexible and help open blood vessels resulting in improved blood flow. In lab experiments we know flavonoids can have anti-inflammatory effects and help modulate levels of nitric oxide in the body which can help blood vessels relax and improve blood flow.”
The study was carried out by nutrition departments at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and UEA’s Norwich Medical School.
Prof Cassidy says: “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. What is really interesting is that the same processes that create heart disease may also cause erectile dysfunction, which shares risk factors with heart disease. So erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of current or future heart problems and is thought to be due to inadequate blood supply to the heart and impaired blood flow to the penis, which aids in the development of atherosclerosis.”
“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. This is the first large population study to look and see if diet may be associated with erectile dysfunction risk. When we looked at all the different flavonoids it was the ones which are responsible for the powerful red/blue colouration of plants that were associated with a reduction in risk as well as the flavanones which are almost exclusively associated with citrus fruit intake in the habitual diet.”
She went on, “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.”
More than 50,000 middle aged men were included in this large population based study. They were asked about their ability to have and maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse – dating back to 1986. Data on dietary intake was also collected every four years.
The research team took into account a range of factors such as body weight, physical activity, amount of caffeine consumed, and whether the participants smoked. The research was also restricted to men who were otherwise in good health.
More than one third of the men surveyed reported suffering new onset erectile dysfunction. But those who consumed a diet rich in anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones were less likely to suffer the condition.
Prof Cassidy said: “The top sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones consumed in the US are strawberries, blueberries, red wine, apples, pears, and citrus products.”
“We also found that the benefits were strongest among younger men,” she added.
The team also looked at other lifestyle factors and found that men who consumed a high intake of anthocyanins and flavanones and who were also physically active had the lowest risk of erectile dysfunction.
Dr Eric Rimm, senior author on the study and a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said: “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.
Cassidy says, “The great thing about this study’s findings is that the benefits can be found by including a few portions of fruits people already eat, in particular citrus fruits and berries, which were associated with the greatest reduction in risk. Most importantly, 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.”
‘Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction’ is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on January 13, 2016.
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