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Health & Families

A daily dose of niacin may improve erectile dysfunction

Vitamin B3, or niacin - found in chicken, fish, and grains - may help men overcome erectile dysfunction (ED) if they have high cholesterol, according to a new study published in the J ournal of Sexual Medicine.

The results, published earlier this month, show that the 80 men in the study with moderate or severe erectile dysfunction (ED) and high cholesterol reported an improvement in their ability to maintain an erection after supplementing their diet with niacin. The 80 men who took a placebo pill, who also began the study with only mild ED, did not experience a change in their symptoms, the researchers said.

"But consider this before you binge on chicken breasts: You'll need to eat nearly 200 of them a day to get the 1,500 mg dose of niacin that study volunteers received," writes Men's Health magazine on the finding on August 18.

The men started with a daily dose of 500 mg, to make sure they had no adverse side effects, then increased to 1,000 mg and then 1,500 mg. However, Men's Health warns that according to the US's Baylor College of Medicine urologist Larry Lipschultz, not only do niacin supplements often contain less of what the bottle says, "but ED can also be a precursor to heart disease - a condition you should treat with your doctor's advice."

If you have ED, talk to your doctor before starting niacin treatment, Lipschultz advises.

Current ED drugs, such as Viagra, need to be taken within a few hours of sexual activity, and for many patients, the improvement in ED is short-lived. "Niacin is much more convenient," study author Dr. Chi-Fai Ng of The Chinese University of Hong Kong said in a release. "You take it once a day, whenever you want, and you can have sex any time."

Ng and his team didn't test men without high cholesterol or compare niacin to other ED drugs, so he says further research is needed to see if it works for other men, too.

Access the study here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02414.x/abstract