Red wine and berries cut the risk of erectile dysfunction, study finds

Erectile dysfunction affects over half of middle-aged and older men

Men who consume red wine and blueberries and take regular exercise can cut their risk of developing erectile dysfunction by over a fifth, a new study has shown.

Scientists have identified that foods rich in certain flavonoids cut the risk of men experiencing the sexual problem which affects up to half of all middle-aged and older men. 

The foods with the greatest benefits include blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and blackcurrant, which contain anthocyanins; as well as citrus fruits, which are packed with flavanones and flavones.

The study built on previous research which showed that exercise can reduce the risk of ED. Scientists have now found that eating a diet rich in flavonoids is as beneficial as walking briskly for up to five hours a week.

By exercising and eating flavonoid-rich foods, men can cut the risk of experience ED by 21 per cent.

Researchers also pinpointed that eating more fruit in general was linked to a 14 per cent reduction in the risk of developing ED.

The study, published in 'The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition', was carried out by researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

To make their findings, researchers assessed data collected since 1986 on over 50,000 middle-aged men. Particpants were asked about their ability to have and maintain an erection sufficient for having sex. The men were also questioned about their diet every four years.

The men who consumed high levels of anthocyanins and flavanones, and who were also physically active, had the lowest risk of erectile dysfunction, the study found. 

The evidence also showed that more than a third of men said they struggled with new onset ED, but those who ate a diet full of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones were less likely to suffer the condition.

Lead researcher Prof Aedin Cassidy from UEA said that flavanoids are present in many foods and drinks including fruits, vegetables, tea, herbs and wine. 

"In terms of quantities, we’re talking just a few portions a week," she said. 

"The top sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones consumed in the US are strawberries, blueberries, red wine, apples, pears, and citrus products."

"We also found that the benefits were strongest among younger men," she added.

Dr Eric Rimm, senior author on the study and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said: "As well as improving sexual health for middle-aged men, there is another important benefit linked to heart health. Erectile dysfunction is often an early barometer of poor vascular function and offers a critical opportunity to intervene and prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack and even death.

"Men with erectile dysfunction are likely to be highly motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising more and eating the right foods – which would greatly benefit their long-term cardiovascular health as well."