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Erectile dysfunction [ED] is usually said to increase with age. Nevertheless, an increasing number of instances have also been reported in the comparatively younger people  .
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to achieve or sustain an erection for a duration that would suffice for satisfactory sexual performance  .
Inability to maintain an erection can be due to many factors. While few and far between episodes of inability to maintain an erection are usually not a cause of concern from a medical point of view, it is when the inability is recurrent or persistent that the term erectile dysfunction is used. The condition should be affecting sexual activity for a minimum of 3 months before it can be attributed to ED  .
Diet And Its Effect On Erectile Dysfunction
ED is a common condition affecting men as they advance in age. Various environmental factors have been seen to influence the onset and progression of ED. Over the years, many studies have been conducted to analyse the effect of dietary factors on ED, with special focus on the direct as well as the indirect effect that certain micronutrients and macronutrients have on ED  .
While ED can be caused by neurogenic, psychogenic or endocrine causes as well, the most common reason for ED is vascular, that is, caused by a reduction in the blood supply to the penis  .
Diet, especially a Mediterranean diet, has been seen to have a positive effect on hypertension, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and obesity. These conditions are regarded as indicators for microvascular disease, and by implication, also markers of a heightened risk of ED  .
A Mediterranean diet that consists of a high intake of virgin olive oil, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, vegetables, and fibres is commonly associated with lower risk and reduced severity of ED  .
Clinical trials have revealed that if a Mediterranean diet was followed by diabetic patients, there was a delay in the deterioration of sexual activity  .
The positive effect of a Mediterranean diet or MedDiet on erectile dysfunction is believed to be owing to certain factors - higher arginine levels that improve the nitric oxide activity, greater amount of antioxidants, and a heightened metabolism of glucose and lipid  .
A healthy lifestyle, supplemented with a low-fat diet, can help in the preservation of sexual function in men and also prevent the onset of ED.
Foods That Help Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Clinical research has revealed that the adoption of healthy diets can help in the prevention of ED  .
Some foods that have been found to be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of ED include the following:
Though mainly composed of water, watermelon also contains lycopene  . A carotenoid, lycopene is known for its antioxidant capacity and health benefits, especially for your skin, prostate, and heart.
Well known as an integral part of Asian herbal medicine, oysters have been used as an aphrodisiac for managing ED  .
Oysters are believed to boost the testosterone levels, making them excellent for the reproductive health of men. Loaded with taurine, consumption of oysters promotes nerve transmission and cardiac health as well  .
As per the findings in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [NHANES], the intake of caffeine - specifically an intake that amounted to consuming about 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day, or 170 to 375mg in a day - was seen to reduce ED  .
However, while this reduction in ED was observed among hypertensive or obese men, caffeine was not seen to have the same impact on diabetic men with ED  .
If you are not too keen on drinking coffee, you can opt for other drinks that contain caffeine, such as sports drinks, sodas, and teas.
4. Dark chocolate
Clinical research has revealed that a higher intake of flavonoids is connected to a reduction in the incidence of ED  .
Some studies have found that the total flavanol content in the commercial variety of dark chocolate could be as much as five times more than that found in milk chocolate  .
Flavanols help in lowering blood pressure and increasing the blood flow. As consumption of flavanols makes your body produce more nitric oxide, it has been seen to promote erections. This is the reason why many medications for ED contain flavanols.
5. Olive oil
A Mediterranean Diet that includes a high intake of virgin olive oil has been seen to positively influence sexual function in men by lowering the risk as well as the severity of ED  .
Containing good fat, consumption of virgin olive oil removes the bad cholesterol from your body. For most benefits, do make sure that the olive oil is virgin or extra-virgin.
6. Pomegranate juice
Clinical trials have established the efficacy of pomegranate juice in improving erections. Men with mild to moderate ED were included in the trial  .
Walnuts are a rich source of arginine, folic acid, fibre, and vitamin E. The arginine in walnuts helps the body produce more nitric oxide, which in turn leads to better erections in men.
Consumption of chilli peppers has been witnessed to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Peppers can help in ED by relaxing the arteries, thereby increasing the flow of blood to the various organs, penis included.
In Uganda, traditional herbal remedies for the treatment of sexual impotence and ED often include Capsicum frutescens or red pepper  .
Clinical trials have revealed that the administration of omega-3 fatty acids could have a positive effect on the erectile dysfunction  .
Mackerel, tuna, sardines, and salmon are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids increase endothelial nitrous oxide production, decrease cardiac death, and reduce inflammatory markers. All these factors make omega-3 fatty acids quite critical for men who are diabetic, hypertensive, suffering from coronary artery disease, at high risk for serious cardiac events, or men with ED that are below 60 years in age  .
Green leafy vegetables, an integral part of the Mediterranean Diet and the Japanese Diet, have numerous health benefits owing to their high dietary nitrate content  .
Kale, packed with antioxidants, has a great nutritive value. For optimum results, kale should either be consumed raw or with a minimum amount of processing prior to consumption [such a blanching]  .
Including garlic in your diet can remove the plaque build-up on the walls of your arteries, keeping your arteries clear and your blood flow unobstructed.
Laboratory tests conducted on diabetic rats have revealed that S-Allyl cysteine, a component derived from garlic, can restore erectile function  .
Tips To Keep In Mind
Certain things to keep in mind are as follows:
1. Try maintaining an ideal weight. Being obese or overweight can put you at a greater risk for developing diabetes which will also make you more prone to developing ED.
2. Keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage blood vessels which can also lead to the reduced blood supply to the penis, causing ED.
3. Be careful of what you eat. Just follow a simple rule, anything not good for your heart is also not good for your erection. Avoid fried and processed foods.
4. Stop smoking. Nicotine consumption leads to contraction of blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood flow to the penis.
5. Avoid steroids. Steroids, often used by body builders and athletes, have an adverse effect on the testicles and their ability to produce testosterone.
6. Exercise regularly. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to ED. Swimming and running have a positive impact on sexual health.
Always regarded as the quintessential symbol of a man's sexual powers and virility, the interest surrounding an erect penis and the various remedies for any dysfunction can hardly be overstated.
While usually affecting men as they get older, instances of ED have increasingly been seen in comparatively younger men as well. Better lifestyle choices can positively impact sexual function in men of all ages.
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