Eating a Mediterranean diet that is low in red meat can help to improve erectile dysfunction in men struggling with the condition, a new study has revealed.
This is because men with high blood pressure are twice as likely to suffer from the condition than those with normal blood pressure levels.
To find out whether treating blood pressure through a change in diet also helped treat erectile dysfunction, experts from the University of Athens in Greece, put 250 middle-aged men on a Mediterranean diet and monitored their health.
The researchers found that men who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet had better blood flow, higher testosterone levels and better erectile performance.
Eating a Mediterranean diet that is low in red meat can help to improve erectile dysfunction in men struggling with the condition, a new study has discovered
WHAT IS IMPOTENCE?
Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is when a man is unable to get or maintain an erection.
It is more common in the over-40s but affects men of all ages.
Failure to stay erect is usually due to tiredness, stress, anxiety or alcohol, and is not a cause for concern.
However, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, side effects of medication, or hormonal issues.
Lifestyle factors than can affect the condition include obesity, smoking, cycling too much, drinking too much, and stress.
Source: NHS Choices
As part of the study, the Greek team explored the benefits gained from eating different levels of a Mediterranean diet on erectile dysfunction, as well as heart disease and blood pressure levels.
Previous research has shown that exercise levels could improve survival in men with high blood pressure, and eating a Mediterranean diet could both lower blood pressure and prevent heart attacks in at risk men.
This particular diet puts an emphasis on fruit, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil, modest consumption of dairy products, and limiting red meat.
The researchers examined whether dietary habits were linked with fitness, testosterone levels, blood flow, arterial stiffness, and erectile performance.
The study included 250 men, with an average age of 56, all of whom had high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.
Mediterranean diet consumption was assessed by questionnaires, with volunteers self reporting how closely they were following the diet.
Participants received a score of zero to 55, with higher values indicating greater adherence to the diet.
Exercise capacity was assessed with a treadmill test and testosterone was measured in blood samples taken before 09:00 in the morning every day.
Men who suffer erectile dysfunction after surgery for prostate cancer could benefit from a new shockwave therapy (stock image)
EXPLAINED: THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
Consuming more fruit and fish, and fewer sugary drinks and snacks, are the most important aspects of a Mediterranean diet.
- Whole grains
- Fish and meat
- Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil
- Saturated fats, like butter
- Red meat
- Processed foods, like juice and white bread
- A glass of red wine here and there is fine
How you can follow it:
- Eat more fish
- Squeeze more fruit & veg into every meal
- Swap your sunflower oil or butter for extra virgin olive oil
- Snack on nuts
- Eat fruit for dessert
To determine how health of their hearts, the volunteers were given an echo cardiogram.
This assessed coronary flow, which indicated the ability to increase blood flow when needed.
Values of two or higher are considered normal and point to better vascular function, the team said.
The researchers examined arterial stiffness, around the heart, using two measures: augmentation index and central pulse pressure.
Higher values indicate stiffer arteries, which are associated with a higher risk of adverse heart events in men with erectile dysfunction, they explained.
Severity of erectile dysfunction was assessed using the Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM).
This uses five questions about erectile ability to allocate a score of zero to 25, with higher values correlating to better erectile performance.
The researchers found that men with a higher Mediterranean diet score (above 29) also had higher coronary flow reserve and testosterone, better erectile performance (SHIM score above 14), and lower arterial stiffness.
When the relationships were analysed according to fitness, the researchers found that patients with greater exercise capacity had higher coronary flow reserve, testosterone, Mediterranean diet score (above 25) and SHIM score (above 12), and lower arterial stiffness.
Study author Dr Athanasios Angelis of the University of Athens, Greece said: ‘In our study, consuming a Mediterranean diet was linked with better exercise capacity, healthier arteries and blood flow, higher testosterone levels, and better erectile performance.
‘While we did not examine mechanisms, it seems plausible that this dietary pattern may improve fitness and erectile performance by enhancing function of the blood vessels and limiting the fall in testosterone that occurs in midlife.’
He concluded: ‘The findings suggest that the Mediterranean diet could play a role in maintaining several parameters of vascular health and quality of life and in middle aged men with hypertension and erectile dysfunction.’
The findings have been presented at the ESC Congress 2021.
WHAT IS CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE?
Coronary artery disease occurs when the major blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients become damaged.
CAD affects more than 1.6million men and one million women in the UK, and a total of 15million adults in the US.
It is usually due to plaque and inflammation.
When plaque builds up, it narrows the arteries, which decreases blood flow to the heart.
Over time this can cause angina, while a complete blockage can result in a heart attack.
Many people have no symptoms at first but as the plaque builds up they may notice chest pains or shortness of breath when exercising or stressed.
Other causes of CAD include smoking, diabetes and an inactive lifestyle.
It can be prevented by quitting smoking, controlling conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, staying active, eating well and managing stress.
Drugs can help to lower cholesterol, while aspirin thins the blood to reduce the risk of clots.
In severe cases, stents can be put into the arteries to open them, while coronary bypass surgery creates a graft to bypass the blocked arteries using a vessel from another part of the body.
Coronary artery disease occurs when the major blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients become damaged (artist’s impression)