A Greek diet in the kitchen could help men in the bedroom according to new research which provides evidence that the Mediterranean diet could reduce erectile dysfunction.
The study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2021, the world's largest annual gathering of cardiovascular professionals.
The study, co-authored by Dr Athanasios Angelis, from the University of Athens, Greece,
"Probably, the best way for men to maintain erectile ability is to take care of their health," says Angelis.
"The Mediterranean diet is an excellent choice that combines health with culinary pleasure, as it contains a great variety of tasty dishes."
Erectile dysfunction is the most common sexual problem experienced by men. According to the Massachusetts Male Ageing Study, the prevalence of ED is predicted to affect approximately 322 million men worldwide by 2025.
While previously thought to be primarily caused by psychological problems, researchers now know that erectile dysfunction is predominantly a vascular disorder and the Mediterranean diet is known to benefit heart health.
In the study, Angelis and colleagues examined 250 men who were 56 years of age on average, with both high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.
The men were asked how closely they adhered to the Mediterranean diet on a scale of 0 to 55.
Next, the study team assessed various components of health. A treadmill test was used to determine exercise capacity whilst blood samples measured levels of testosterone of the participants.
Echocardiography (heart ultrasound) tests were also performed to evaluate heart health.
A survey called the 'Sexual Health Inventory for Men' was used to measure the severity of erectile dysfunction, giving each participant a score between 0 to 25, with 25 being the best for erectile performance.
Through the study it was discovered that men who scored a 29 or higher in terms of adherence to the Mediterranean diet also had:
- The highest levels of testosterone
- Better erectile performance
- Lower arterial stiffness and
- Higher coronary flow.
"Erectile dysfunction becomes more frequent in middle-aged men as they "accumulate years of common risk factors," Angelis explains.
These common risk factors to which he refers include an unhealthy diet, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking, in addition to lower levels of testosterone which often occur alongside erectile dysfunction.
"The Mediterranean diet is beneficial for both vascular physiology and hormone levels," says Angelis.
"The Mediterranean diet may contribute to higher testosterone levels by reducing inflammatory pathways that enhance the atherosclerotic process and suppress endogenous androgens."
As Angelis explains, there is also a "strong and reverse link" between testosterone and cardiovascular health. Testosterone is lower in people with higher blood pressure, uncontrolled hypertension, and heart disease.
"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," Angelis sums up.
"While we did not examine mechanisms, it seems plausible that this dietary pattern may improve fitness and erectile performance by enhancing the function of the blood vessels and limiting the fall in testosterone that occurs in midlife.
"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 Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional cuisines of Greece, Italy and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, are the foundation of the diet. Olive oil is the primary source of added fat.
Fish, seafood, dairy and poultry are included in moderation whilst red meat and sweets are eaten only occasionally.
Interest in the Mediterranean diet began in the 1950s when it was noted that heart disease was not as common in Mediterranean countries as it was in the United States. Since then, numerous studies have confirmed that the Mediterranean diet helps prevent heart disease and stroke.
While the men in the study were middle-aged, Angelis says the results suggest that it would be a good idea for younger men to adopt the diet as well.
"The Mediterranean diet is an excellent culinary preference that may also help younger people maintain vascular health, and thus prevent erectile dysfunction," concludes Angelis.