Since both coronary heart disease and impotence can be reversed with a healthy diet, sexual dysfunction can be used as a motivator to change poor lifestyle habits.
Thanks to Ellen Reid, Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their keynote help.
Motivating patients to change poor lifestyle habits can be extremely difficult. Preventing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks or strokes are relatively distant benefits, whereas barbecued ribs and cheesecake or sitting on your butt promises almost instant gratification. So public health experts are hoping that prevention or improvement of erectile dysfunction could be a more immediate motivator that physicians can use to improve their patients’ lifestyle and in turn their overall cardiovascular health. That's how doctors can save a life during a clinic visit for erectile dysfunction.
We used to think of erectile dysfunction in young men, in their 20s and 30s, as psychogenic in origin, meaning it's all in their heads. But now we’re realizing it's more likely an early sign of vascular disease.
But even when the penis heads in the wrong direction, the heart need not follow. Atherosclerosis in both organs can be reversed with lifestyle changes. We know that a substantial body of knowledge demonstrates that the abundant consumption of vegetables, fruit, and whole grain, and the dietary patterns rich in these foods, convey a markedly lower risk of coronary disease. So one group of researchers tried putting impotent men on a Mediterranean diet, the main characteristics of which includes an abundance of plant-based food. 37% of the men on the Mediterranean diet for 2 years regained normal sexual function. What about the diet appeared to do it? Improvements in erectile function were tied to 5 things: increased intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and, essentially, the ratio of plant fats to animal fats.
Similar benefits were found for women. The same kind of diet significantly improved sexual function, together with a significant reduction of systemic inflammation. As a whole, these findings suggest that a Mediterranean-style diet may be a safe strategy for amelioration of sexual function in women with pre-diabetes or diabetes, who found significant improvement in sexual satisfaction on the healthier diet.
Why? Well, as dietary fiber may have anti-inflammatory roles, it may be due to the fiber content of all those plants in the Mediterranean diet, magnified by all the antioxidants. This is the current thinking, given the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of a plant-based diet. But does it really matter? From a public health perspective, it may be unnecessary to elucidate every mechanism of single components: let's just recommend people eat healthy, such as by decreasing fat and increasing whole grains and greens.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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This is the second of a 3-part video series on sexual health. If you missed it, check out my last video Survival of the Firmest: Erectile Dysfunction and Death, and stay tuned for the next video, Pistachio Nuts for Erectile Dysfunction.
More on preventing sexual dysfunction in women in the first place in: Cholesterol and Female Sexual Dysfunction.
A similar Mediterranean diet failed to help fibromyalgia in the short term (see Fibromyalgia vs. Mostly Raw & Mostly Vegetarian Diets), but diets that were even more plant-based were found to be beneficial: Fibromyalgia vs. Vegetarian & Raw Vegan Diets.
Other benefits of fiber may include improved bowel function (Bristol Stool Scale) and frequency (Prunes vs. Metamucil vs. Vegan Diet), lower colorectal cancer risk (Stool Size Matters), lower breast cancer risk (Relieving Yourself of Excess Estrogen and Fiber vs. Breast Cancer), lower blood pressure (Whole Grains May Work as Well as Drugs), lower blood cholesterol (How Fiber Lowers Cholesterol), weight loss (Beans and the Second Meal Effect) and a longer lifespan (What Women Should Eat to Live Longer).
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