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Foods that help prevent ED

Siski Green / 14 January 2016

New research points to certain flavonoid-rich foods to help prevent erectile dysfunction (ED).

Man holding blueberries
Anthocyanin is found in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and blackcurrants.

Erectile dysfunction isn’t rare – in fact, estimates suggest that around half of men over 40 will experience it to some degree at some point in their lives, so new research revealing that a diet rich in flavonoid-rich foods such as blueberries and cherries can help prevent erectile dysfunction will prove to be good news. 

Related: Men, ageing and sex: how it changes

For the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 50,000 middle-aged men were given regular questionnaires asking about their ability to get and also to maintain an erection, as well as information regarding their diets and other lifestyle factors such as smoking, caffeine intake and weight too. They were specifically required to report not only on whether they could achieve a penile erection but also whether they could achieve and maintain one sufficiently for sexual intercourse. 

When the researchers assessed the data they found that eating berries had the most significant impact on possible future problems with getting or maintaining an erection. They found that berries containing a specific type of flavonoid, called anthocyanin, provided the biggest difference. Anthocyanin is found in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and blackcurrants.  They also found that flavanone and flavone were effective too - these are found in citrus fruits. 

Related: The truth about antioxidants

Eating plenty of fruit appears to be very effective in preventing problems with erections generally, with a higher total fruit intake being associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of developing any. 

“The participants in the top quintile of fruit intake – the top 20% of our study population – ate more than 3.7 servings a day, while the lowest quintile (bottom 20%) ate less than 1.4 servings a day,” says study author Professor Aedin Cassidy. “For berries we compared negligible intake with those consumed more than three portions per week and this showed a 12% reduction in risk with higher intake. So small changes to the habitual diet is associated with a reduction in risk of ED.”

The greatest prevention in ED was seen in men who ate more fruit and also exercised, backing up earlier research indicating the importance of exercise for maintaining erectile function into and beyond middle age. 

Related: Eat the rainbow – the colourful foods that can help your health

While this research is good news a change in diet won’t help men with all types of erectile dysfunction. Many men experience problems with getting and maintaining erections because of psychological or emotional issues such as depression, for example, others may experience it as a result of medication, neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, for example, and injury can also be a factor. 

Related: When it’s normal not to want to get between the sheets with your other half

What’s more eating berries and other fruits likely won’t keep your erections strong if you don’t exercise, if you smoke or are overweight, all of which are factors involved in erectile health.

Numerous studies have shown that being overweight, smoking and not doing regular exercise contribute to erectile dysfunction, as well as preventing a host of other diseases. So your best bet is to eat healthily with a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and quit smoking. Not only will you be protecting your penis that way, you’ll also be protecting your other essential organs too!

Related: Enjoying sex with erectile dysfunction

The collaborative study was undertaken by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.