Sperling Prostate Center

How Your Food Affects Your Sex Life

Hey guys, if you’re interested in maintaining fun in the bedroom as you transition from midlife into aging, pay attention to what you eat. The food you consume has a definite influence on your sexual performance. At the beginning of 2022 I posted a blog on plant-based diets and men’s health. I want to dig more deeply into how diet relates to erectile dysfunction (ED). The most recently published studies continue to support eating more plants and less animal protein for a healthy sex life.

The Carto study

In March, 2022 Carto et al. (U of Miami, Touro University Nevada) gathered data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in order to explore the link between plant based content of diet and erectile dysfunction.[i] Their analysis involved 2549 men ages 41-64. Out of that group, 1085 (42.6%) had good erectile function, while 1464 (57.4%) had some level of ED ranging from usually having erections, sometimes having them, or never having them. Based on their dietary information, their Plant-based Dietary Index (PDI) scores were calculated. High scores were considered healthy PDI (hPDI) while low scores were unhealthy PDI (uPDI), and the scores were correlated with their level of ED.

Those with hPDI had lower incidence of ED than those with uPDI. The authors concluded that “a healthful plant-based diet is associated with less chance of having erectile dysfunction.”

The Yang study

In October, 2022 Yang et al. (Harvard, UCSF, US Veterans Administration) reported their analysis of 21,942 men.[ii] The participants, ages 40-75, recorded their erectile dysfunction (ED) level every four years beginning in 2000. Also, they completed dietary questionnaires every 4 years, from which their PDI scores were calculated.

Without question, men in the 60-69 age group in the highest 20% of hPDI scores had 18% lower risk of ED, compared to those in lowest 20% of hPDI scores. On the other hand, men below age 60 who had uPDI scores had greater incidence of ED. The authors suggest that men who want to maintain erectile function as they age be encouraged to eat a plant-based diet.

The Lu study

An earlier study (May, 2021) out of China is small, but interesting in the way it was structured and analyzed. The authors conducted what is called a nested case-control study, comparing 92 men with ED vs. 92 men who had normal erectile function (no ED).[iii] The group members were matched, that is, they had similar features except for erectile function. In addition to evaluating ED using the internationally recognized standard questionnaire called the IIEF-5 (International Index of Erectile Function), the authors calculated each participant’s PDI score, and took into account their BMI and metabolic syndrome.

While the authors’ conclusion parallels those of the two studies above, they note that within the ED group, “both the PDI and hPDI increased significantly as the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF-5) scores increased…” To put it another way, for the men with ED, the more plant based foods they ate, the less severe their ED. The authors confirmed the results by measuring two biomarkers that must be present for better performance: levels of nitric oxide and E selectin. Again, the more plant-based foods consumed, the higher the biologic levels of these two erection-boosters.

The moral of the story is, if you don’t want your penis to be in a “vegetative” state as you grow older, start eating more vegetables. And of course, more fruits, whole grains, nuts. Commit to reducing animal protein and integrating more plant-based foods.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Carto C, Pagalavan M, Nackeeran S, Blachman-Braun R et al. Consumption of a Healthy Plant-based Diet is Associated With a Decreased Risk of Erectile Dysfunction: A Cross-sectional Study of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Urology. 2022 Mar;161:76-82.
[ii] Yang H, Breyer BN, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E et al. Plant-based diet index and erectile dysfunction in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. BJU Int. 2022 Oct;130(4):514-521.
[iii] Lu Y, Kang J, Li Z, Wang X et al. The association between plant-based diet and erectile dysfunction in Chinese men. Basic Clin Androl. 2021 May 13;31(1):11.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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