Pistachios May Help Erectile Dysfunction

Could Pistachio Nuts Help Stop Erectile Dysfunction?
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Erectile dysfunction is a major cause of decreased quality of life in men—so much so that one early theory suggested that this may explain the link between impotence and heart attacks. Depression is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, and the thought was that men who couldn’t get it up become so depressed that they die of a broken heart.

Now we know that erectile dysfunction and heart disease can be two different manifestations of the exact same root problem, diseased arteries—inflamed, oxidized, cholesterol-clogged blood vessels (See Survival of the Firmest: Erectile Dysfunction and Death). So it’s no wonder that a diet chock-full of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering plant foods would improve sexual functioning in both men and women, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease (See 50 Shades of Green). A completely plant-based diet can even stop and reverse our number one killer (See One in a Thousand: Ending the Heart Disease Epidemic).

Of all the plant foods individually examined so far, nuts appear most tied to longevity. Just two handfuls a week may extend a woman’s life as much as jogging four hours a week (see What Women Should Eat to Live Longer). So, if nuts reduce the risk of heart disease, might they also help with sexual dysfunction?

In my video, Pistachio Nuts for Erectlie Dysfuntion I outline a study where men eating three to four handfuls of pistachios a day for just three weeks experienced both significant improvement in blood flow through the penis and significantly firmer erections. This is not surprising. Antioxidant-rich foods have a Viagra-like effect of boosting nitric oxide production. (See The Power of NO). Also, the citruline in watermelons helped with erection firmness by boosting arginine, (See Watermelon as Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction), which is what our body makes nitric oxide out of.Pistachios have a bunch of both antioxidants and arginine, which may help explain the improvement in blood flow.

We also know that cholesterol is an important predictor of sexual dysfunction in both men and women (See Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction), and after just three weeks, those eating pistachios had significant improvements in cholesterol. And like other studies that piled on hundreds of calories of nuts a day, there was no weight gain. (For more on this remarkable effect, see my videos Nuts and Obesity: The Weight of Evidence, Solving the Mystery of the Missing Calories, and Testing the Pistachio Principle). Conclusion: “Just three weeks of pistachios resulted in a significant improvement in erectile function with additional improvement in cholesterol without any side effects.”

Note the two important differences between diet and drugs. Drugs like Viagra just cover up the symptoms of the underlying problem–unhealthy arteries. Eating whole healthy plant foods like nuts actually helps attack the root cause—cholesterol, oxidation, and inflammation—and has only good side effects.

The enzyme that Viagra-like drugs inhibit is found primarily in two places in the body: the erectile tissue of the penis and the retina of the eye. That’s why the FDA encourages people to stop taking drugs like Viagra, and “call a doctor right away if you experience sudden loss of vision.” (Assuming you can still find your phone.)

Though the harms (such as cyanopsia in which everything in our vision suddenly becomes tinted blue) tend to be self-limited and reversible, why risk side-effects at all when the problem can be reversed and cured in the first place, improving the quality and quantity of our lives?

I discuss the epidemic of adverse prescription drug side-effects in my 2012-13 annual review Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and my new 2013-14 live presentation More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases.

In addition to improving penile blood flow, nuts may also help prevent breast cancer (Tree Nuts or Peanuts for Breast Cancer Prevention?), inflammatory diseases (Fighting Inflammation in a Nut Shell), sudden death (How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?), and lengthen one’s lifespan (Nuts May Help Prevent Death).

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image Credit: miss iona lion / Flickr

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  • PST

    There are other causes for erectile disfunction than cardiovascular disease and a lousy diet, aren’t there? Can’t an enlarged prostate have something to do with it?

  • Dan

    Do the pistachios have to be raw, or can they be the regular roasted (and probably salted) variety found everywhere?

  • scoop c

    Health aside, I’ve always been suspicious that erectile dysfunction, at least in healthy, married males, might just be from lack of an appealing mate, either aesthetically, or what I wonder may be more prevalent, a lack of perceiving the mate as an inspiringly attractive person. . . . Over time a woman’s uninspiring personality traits and qualities, (while still able to put on a winning smile), may not be a character that, at home behind closed doors, promotes or inspires warm and friendly feelings that translate to physical attraction, and. . . the lower parts know it deep down, and says, “I think I’ll pass. Thanks anyway”. . . . Interesting how many vids on this subject of late.

    • Bambi booboo

      Most women nag too much. Also, many let themselves go with respect to appearance and matters like weight and hair and make-up at some point. Since the man is already snared and captive it’s a lot of work for the female to keep up the game for find a mate.

      • scoop c

        Maybe if they lay the game down and just become appealing people with a warm heart. Kind. Older men are not interested in their own age group for a hot time. They want a companion for the rest of the ride. That’s why they stay with their wives while they play around – planning for old age companionship, (if she’s a good woman). I think those that stay with unappealing women, hoping for things to change, lose interest and then get out, and look for those essentials (not a hot bod) in a good, kind hearted woman.

      • Linda N

        Yes, and most men see “Tom Cruise” while standing in front of a mirror that reveals a huge beer belly, and a lack of muscle tone. Not to mention the lack of grooming, bad breath, bad smell, and bad attitude! But they want and think they deserve that hot young babe in the bed! Yuck!

        • Marie

          Yes, it’s called the ‘egg on legs’ look and let’s not forget the wrinkly butt syndrome many older men get and what you see walking away from you …yup that’s attractive. While agree it’s good for BOTH partners to make an effort if your relationship is a good one the attraction deepens and mellows over time. BOTH sexes have fantasies. Healthy. BUT reality a healthy intimate life takes work and understanding if issues such as health come into play. What if there is a car accident or a soldier (male or female) who comes home wounded?

          My husband and I have been together almost 20 yrs and we’re still attracted to each other…less toned body parts, grey hair and all. We make a point of having date night, saying I love you every day and that we love each other just as we are AND support efforts to look and feel well.

  • Chris R.

    This contradicts the past video you made on keeping an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of 4 to 1 or less. Pistachios have high levels of Omega 6 and almost no Omega 3. How does your comments of eating more nuts equate with your video of eating less Omega 6?

    • b00mer

      Hi Chris, keeping a 4:1 ratio, even with nuts and seeds included, is not difficult at all in the context of a healthy diet with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, some flax or chia seeds, and without added oils or processed food products which contain them.

      For example,

      If you ate a tbsp of chia (easy to do in the context of oatmeal, granola bars, muffins, smoothies, etc), you could eat about a third of a cup of pistachios and have a perfect 4:1 omega 6:3 ratio between the two. Have a tbsp each of flax and chia and you could have about 0.7 cups of pistachios and still maintain the 4:1 ratio.

      As for the rest of the diet, if you are eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables (particular green vegetables and berries) and beans, the ratio for the remainder of your food will most likely be much less than 4:1.

      Of course you don’t have to eat all those pistachios – you can eat fewer and enjoy an even better ratio. Or, if you don’t want to eat any flax or chia, you can still eat a smaller amount of nuts and balance them out with copious vegetables and fruits.

      I just threw my food from yesterday into cronometer. Yesterday I had about a tbsp each of pumpkin seeds and peanut butter, as well as a brazil nut. From my perspective that seems like quite a bit of high omega-6 foods. Yet at the end of the day I still had a ratio of only 2:1. I had a tbsp each of flax and chia, as well as a lot of dark leafy greens, blueberries, mixed frozen veggies, and other fruits, veggies, and beans here and there that all added up.

      If you haven’t tried cronometer before, I highly recommend it. I remember being quite surprised by how many omega-3s I was consuming in the form of produce the first time I made an entry for a day when I didn’t eat any flax/chia. There are quite a bit more omega-3s in produce than most people realize. Hope this helps.

      • DGH

        True enough about the 4:1 ratio, but does that magic number actually apply to plant-derived ALA as the omega-3 in question? There are lots of data to suggest that ALA converts very poorly to DHA, which is a key omega-3 used in the calculation of the original 4:1 ratio for optimal health. And the more omega-6 you eat, the less DHA you will produce (although even at baseline, DHA is very sparsely produced from ALA).

        • Toxins

          The ratio applies to ALA, because the ratio is irrelevant in terms of DHA and EPA. The 4:1 ratio is so that we can convert ALA to DHA and EPA.

          Jeff Novick has discussed this issue as well regarding the conversion rate.

          “Comparison of the PLLC n23 PUFAs:DALA ratio between dietary-habit groups showed that it was 209% higher in vegan men and 184% higher in vegan women than in fish-eaters, was 14% higher in vegetarian men and 6% higher in vegetarian women than in fish-eaters, and was 17% and 18% higher in male and female meat-eaters, respectively, than in fish-eaters This suggests that the statistically estimated conversion may be higher in non-fish-eaters than in fish-eaters.”

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861171

          In addition, another study showed that despite this “theoretical” low conversion rate, there is no evidence of any harm so, the problem may not be in the conversion rate, but in the assumption that it is low.

          “There is no evidence of adverse effects on health or cognitive function with lower DHA intake in vegetarians”

          “In the absence of convincing evidence for the deleterious effects resulting from the lack of DHA from the diet of vegetarians, it must be concluded that needs for omega-3 fatty acids can be met by dietary ALA. ”

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19500961

          • DGH

            Sorry, but I have read every study of DHA/EPA status in vegans and vegetarians that I can get my hands on, and the data you cite from EPIC-Norfolk appear to be an outlier. This is discussed on Jack Norris’s website at: http://veganhealth.org/articles/omega3#n3intake

            Virtually all other studies show that vegans have very low levels of DHA in particular. The question is whether or not this means anything to cardiovascular or neurological health and I doubt we will ever know the answer to this. However, just saying that if you take enough ALA you will produce enough DHA is grossly incorrect, as Norris discusses on his site (including citations to all the major studies, one of which was just published very recently: http://jacknorrisrd.com/clinical-trial-of-dha-supplementation-in-vegans/

          • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

            For me the science comes together when you understand the underlying science. Omega 3′s and Omega 6′s are metabolized through same enzyme to get to what the body needs both anti-inflammatory/anti-clotting substances like EPA/DHA and inflammatory/clotting substances such as Arachidonic Acid. It is possible to elevate the amount of DHA/EPA via supplementation but this doesn’t lower the amount of AA. It is also understandable why some vegans have such high 6/3 ratio’s when they consume foods very high in omega 6′s such as some plant oils especially corn oil. As Boomer pointed out in the previous post it is easy to maintain the proper ratio by eating whole plant foods.

          • DGH

            In the context of a vegan diet, I am not all that concerned about maintaining an optimal omega 6/3 ratio, as there is very little data from randomized trials suggesting it is beneficial to do so. A vegan diet is healthy enough without complicating it by forcing on a paradigm of having to maintain 4:1 or less. However, for those who wish to maintain adequate DHA levels, the majority of reports suggest that vegans and vegetarians (unless they eat fish) will require supplemental DHA. The question is whether it’s necessary to do so, or whether DHA is an epiphenomenon of something else (ie just a healthy dietary marker but not causal). Obviously those who adhere rigorously to a whole foods plant-based diet will happen to have the best omega 6-3 ratios, so perhaps that is just a marker of overall dietary quality and lack of processing.

          • DGH

            Incidentally I should add that I just checked this out with my food application and my omega 6-3 ratio turns out to be 4.1:1, and this is despite eating nuts, seeds, tahini, and hummus on a daily basis. It will go up if I eat restaurant food (e.g. a veggie burger or pasta sauce). At home I don’t find it necessary to use any vegetable oils, nor actually heat anything that I eat.

          • Toxins
      • Toxins

        Great post Boomer!

      • Penny

        Thanks for sharing this information. I just went and signed up at Cronometer.com and it is indeed a useful tool. Very helpful when trying to make sure you are getting enough essential nutrients.
        You are also correct about it being pretty easy to control your Omega 6:3 ratio even while consuming nuts. I eat a small handful of walnuts every morning with my breakfast cereal and I am still achieving about a 4:1 ratio. My breakfast alone is about 4.6:1, and then as I eat my veggies throughout the day it improves to around 4:1.
        Great tool, thanks again!

        • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

          Another good use of Cronometer is to calculate calorie density or calories per pound for those interested in losing fat. If you enter “454″ under serving and select “g” you will be the calories per pound as there are 454 grams/pound.

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