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Flavonoids Associated With Improved Erectile Function

Young men might be able to improve their erections by consuming more fruits and vegetables and fewer alcohol and dairy products, new research suggests.

The key appears to be flavonoids, an antioxidant found in most fruits and vegetables. Flavones, a flavonoid subclass found in parsley, thyme, celery, and hot peppers, is most beneficial, scientists say.

The study involved 350 men between the ages of 18 and 40 (average age 28) who completed an online questionnaire covering their overall health and their dietary habits, particularly their consumption of flavonoid-rich foods. The International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) was included as well.

Based on IIEF scores, eighty-six men met the criteria for ED; for just over half, ED was mild. The remaining 264 men without ED served as the control group. None of the men had diseases linked to ED, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Overall, about a quarter of the men were smokers. About two-thirds were in long term relationships.

Men with ED tended to be older and heavier smokers than their counterparts without ED. They ate fewer foods with flavonoids and fewer fruits and vegetables in general. They also consumed more dairy and alcoholic beverages.

The researchers found that adding or avoiding certain foods and beverages could have a significant effect on erectile function. Each additional serving of dairy raised ED risk by 22%. One additional alcoholic beverage daily raised it by 46%.

However, eating more vegetables each week lowered risk by 13%, and an additional serving of fruit each day decreased risk by 38%.

After adjusting for age, body mass index, and smoking status, the researchers determined that increasing flavonoid consumption by 10 mg each day reduced ED risk by 7%.

Past studies have shown that consuming antioxidants, including flavonoids, might reduce a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease. Because ED can be an early signal of cardiovascular problems, adding more antioxidants to one’s diet might, in turn, reduce the risk of erection trouble as well.

In addition, a Mediterranean diet, of which fruits and vegetables are a large component, has been linked to increased nitric oxide activity, which may also improve erections, the study authors said.

“[T]he effect of dietary antioxidants on the primary and secondary prevention of ED appears unanimously accepted,” they wrote.

“Simple lifestyle modifications, such as increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreased alcohol intake and smoking frequency, could prove useful as proactive measures against ED progression,” the authors added.

They pointed out that none of the participants had been assessed for mental health issues, which could have affected erectile function.

The study was first published online in January in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Mykoniatis, Ioannis, MD, et al. “Sexual Dysfunction Among Young Men: Overview of Dietary Components Associated With Erectile Dysfunction” (Full-text. Published online: January 8, 2018)


Szalay, Jessie “What Are Flavonoids?” (October 20, 2015)

Oregon State University – Linus Pauling Institute

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