Kitchen "Cure" for Erectile Dysfunction Many men look to the little blue pill to solve the problem of erectile dysfunction (ED), but according to a recent Italian study from the second University of Naples, the real answer might not be in the medicine chest but in the kitchen. The study investigated how following a Mediterranean-style diet (a diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits/vegetables, dried beans and other legumes, olive oil, nuts and fish and a reduced intake of red or processed meat) would impact ED in men with metabolic syndrome, defined by a cluster of symptoms, including raised blood pressure, abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, blood lipid disorders and elevated markers for blood clotting and inflammation. Men with metabolic syndrome also have a higher incidence of ED -- nearly 27% versus 13% of men without the syndrome. For this study, researchers gathered 65 men with both ED and metabolic syndrome and put 35 of them on a Mediterranean diet. The 30 men in the control group received information about healthy eating practices, but they did not follow a specific food plan.
At the end of two years, approximately one-third of the men on the Mediterranean diet regained normal sexual functioning versus just two men in the control group. And more good news -- those following the Mediterranean diet had a significant decrease in blood glucose, insulin, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure and a significant increase in HDL cholesterol. Furthermore, their blood showed lowered inflammation and improved endothelial function (having to do with blood vessel function). Study authors speculate that the increased fiber and antioxidants in the diet, with its emphasis on whole foods and olive oil, may play a role in the men's improvement, though all elements acting together may have been even more important. I spoke with urologist and ED specialist Arthur L. Burnett II, MD, professor of urology and director of the Male Consultation Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions about this study. He says that this may be the first controlled study demonstrating how effective dietary changes can be. While he agrees that because ED and cardiovascular disease have been shown to have some of the same risk factors, the increase in antioxidants in the diet would surely have had an impact.
He also points out that when people are eating healthful foods, they are eating fewer injurious ones such as high-fat meats. Dr. Burnett adds that we need more research to further confirm whether diet and modified lifestyle can limit or reverse the problem of ED, but it is obviously intuitive that eating healthfully as well as maintaining a normal weight and cholesterol levels and not smoking are, at the very least, important steps.