Mediterranean Diet Might Improve Sexual Function in Men and Women with Type 2 Diabetes

Following a Mediterranean diet – one rich in plant-based foods, olive oil, and fish – might benefit the sexual health of men and women with type 2 diabetes, according to a new study in Diabetes Care, the journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Sexual dysfunction is common among diabetics. According to the Sexual Medicine Society of North America, men with diabetes are four times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED) compared to non-diabetic men. They also tend to develop ED at earlier ages and with greater severity.

Diabetic women often cope with poor vaginal lubrication and low sex drive. Frequent yeast infections, which irritate vaginal tissue, might make sex uncomfortable as well. 

Past studies have found that changes in diet, along with other lifestyle modifications, can help relieve sexual problems, at least to some extent. Researchers from Second University of Naples, in Italy, investigated how following a Mediterranean diet might affect ED and female sexual dysfunction (FSD) in type 2 diabetics.

Typical in areas of southern Europe, including Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal, the Mediterranean diet consists largely of plant-based foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Dietary fat comes mostly from olive oil; solid fats like butter are rarely used. Fish is eaten often and many meals are accompanied by wine. Red meat and sugary foods are seldom consumed.

This study was part of the MEditerranean DIet and Type 2 diAbetes (MÉDITA) randomized trial. Two hundred fifteen people with diabetes were randomly assigned to eat either a Mediterranean diet (54 men and 54 women) or a low-fat diet (52 men and 55 women).

To assess their sexual function, the participants completed questionnaires (the International Index of Erectile Function for men, the Female Sexual Function Index for women) at baseline, before randomization, and every six months thereafter. Follow-up lasted for about eight years.

Over that time, the incidence of ED and FSD was lower for the participants who followed the Mediterranean diet when compared to those who ate a low-fat diet. Members of the Mediterranean diet group were also less likely to have “deterioration” of pre-existing ED or FSD.

“The current study is the first long-term dietary trial demonstrating that the Mediterranean diet conferred benefit on both prevention (56% relative risk reduction) and deterioration of sexual dysfunction in both men and women with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes,” the authors wrote.

They added that the Mediterranean diet might improve “inflammatory milieu and cardiovascular risk.” This result could consequently improve sexual function in people with diabetes.

Diabetes.co.uk reported the following:

“The study results showed that participants had a 56 per cent lower risk of developing either erectile dysfunction or female sexual dysfunction. Additionally, worsening of existing sexual dysfunction was improved in both men and women. The risk of worsening of erectile dysfunction was reduced by 59 per cent and the risk of worsening of female sexual dysfunction was reduced by 50 per cent.”

However, further study is needed to confirm that the Mediterranean diet alone was responsible for the study results.

Resources

American Diabetes Association

“The Basics of Mediterranean-Style Eating”
http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2011-09/the-basics-of.html


Diabetes Care

Maiorino, Maria Ida, et al.
“Primary Prevention of Sexual Dysfunction With Mediterranean Diet in Type 2 Diabetes: The MÈDITA Randomized Trial”
(Full-text. Published online ahead of print: June 28, 2016)
http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2016/06/22/dc16-0910


Diabetes.co.uk

Jephcote, Benedict
“Mediterranean diet prevents sexual dysfunction in type 2 diabetes study”
(June 26, 2016)
http://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2016/jun/mediterranean-diet-prevents-sexual-dysfunction-in-type-2-diabetes-study-92663537.html


Medical News Today

Nordqvist, Christian
“Mediterranean Diet: Facts and Health Benefits”
(October 22, 2015)
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149090.php


SexHealthMatters.org

“Diabetes and Female Sexual Satisfaction”
(August 23, 2012)
http://www.sexhealthmatters.org/sex-health-blog/diabetes-and-female-sexual-satisfaction-sex-health-blog

“Diabetes – Erectile Dysfunction”
http://www.sexhealthmatters.org/erectile-dysfunction/diabetes-erectile-dysfunction

“How is Diabetes Affecting Your Sexual Health?”
(March 12, 2013)
http://www.sexhealthmatters.org/sex-health-blog/how-is-diabetes-affecting-your-sexual-health