Could Diet Impact a Man’s Sexual Function?

A recent review of medical literature reveals “compelling associations” between men’s diet, eating habits, and sexual health.

Obesity and metabolic syndrome are currently linked to many health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. These concerns prompted researchers from the University of California Irvine to explore the ways diet might affect sexual health in men.

Their analysis, published last month in Sexual Medicine Reviews, discusses 41 studies from 1977 through 2017. The researchers focused the effects of diet on three areas of sexual health: erectile function, androgen levels, and male fertility.

Four types of diets were examined:

Western diet Red and processed meats, dairy, refined grains and artificial sweeteners. Few fruits, vegetables, fish or whole grains.
Mediterranean diet Fish, monosaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
Paleolithic diet (“Paleo”) Lean meats and fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Small amounts of dairy, grains, sugar, or salt.
Vegetarian and vegan Little or no animal products, depending on the specific type of diet.

Erectile dysfunction

The researchers found that men with ED might benefit from a Mediterranean diet, as it “improves ED in the short term and lessens deterioration of erectile function in the long term.” For obese and overweight men, losing weight by following a healthy diet can also lead to better erections.

Testosterone levels

The authors noted that, to their knowledge, there are no studies of diet and male hypogonadism (low testosterone) specifically, but there is research involving diet and androgen levels. They reported that testosterone levels appear to increase for obese and overweight men who follow low-fat or low-calorie diets. However, healthy men on low-fat diets might see their testosterone levels drop. More research, especially larger, prospective studies, are needed before the long-term effects of diet on testosterone levels can be determined, they said.

Male fertility

For male fertility, the review suggests that healthier diets are associated with better semen quality, but the Western diet is not. The authors noted that the studies on male fertility were observational, and they called for “better designed” prospective research going forward.

They acknowledged several limitations. For example, diet and dietary patterns were measured differently from study to study, so the results are not direct comparisons. Also, none of the studies addressed whether organic or non-organic foods had any effects.

“Establishing a definitive role for diet in the possible prevention and management of male sexual dysfunction will require further large-scale prospective studies,” the authors concluded.

Resources

Sexual Medicine Reviews

La, Justin, MD, et al.
“Diet and Men’s Sexual Health”
(Published online: August 1, 2017)
http://www.smr.jsexmed.org/article/S2050-0521(17)30074-4/fulltext