A trip to the produce aisle may be just what the doctor orders for men experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED). According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, foods rich in flavonoids, powerful antioxidant compounds found in fruits and vegetables, may lower the risk of ED.
Researchers studied over 50,000 men finding that those who consumed on average at least three portions of flavonoid-rich foods each week, particularly men who consumed a higher total intake of flavonoid rich fruit, had a 14% reduced incidence of ED.
ED also known as impotence is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual activity. It has a negative impact on the quality of life for men and is considered a significant global health problem with estimates of 33-52% prevalence.
It has often been thought that ED was due to a psychogenic or neuropathic origin but evidence from current studies suggest that the predominant etiology is vascular. This means that ED is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease along with hypertension, obesity and smoking.
This study is considered to be the first observational study to suggest that increased daily regular intake of several dietary flavonoids is associated with improved erectile function. It is not entirely understood how flavonoids help but other research has shown that some flavonoids make arteries more flexible increasing blood flow which would benefit ED.
Flavonoids are found primarily in plant-based foods. There have been over 4,000 identified and they can be further divided into subgroups. Three groups of flavonoids from the study showed the greatest benefit – anthocyanins, flavanones, and flavonols.
Anthocyanins are commonly found in red and blue colored foods such as berries – strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries – grapes and red wine. This group of flavonoids may help to keep blood vessels healthy.
Flavanones are found in citrus fruits and juices, such as orange, grapefruits, and lemons
Flavonols include the most abundant and commonly known flavonoid called quercetin, found in yellow onions, scallions, kale, broccoli, apples, berries and teas. Red wine is also high in quercetin.
At this time, if flavonoids rich foods do live up to their reputation of helping lower the chance of men having ED, this may be just the motivator getting them to pick up that carton of strawberries or bag of purple grapes next time they’re at the grocery store.