Flavonoids: Nature's Answer for a Better Sex Life?

Flavonoid-rich foods, drinks linked to lower erectile dysfunction risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Men, a glass of red wine may not just help you unwind — new evidence suggests it could help your sex life, too.

A new study from England found that consuming certain flavonoid-rich foods and drinks was tied to a significantly lower risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), with the greatest benefits seen among men younger than 70. ED is a common condition that occurs when a man can't get or keep an erection firm enough for sex.

Lead study author Aedin Cassidy, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of East Anglia, explained that flavonoids are compounds found in many plant-based foods and drinks, including fruits, vegetables, tea and wine.

"We examined six main types of commonly consumed flavonoids and found that three in particular — anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones — are beneficial," Dr. Cassidy said in a press release.

Anthocyanins are commonly found in blueberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes and red wine. Both flavanones and flavones are commonly found in citrus fruits.

"We already knew that intake of certain foods high in flavonoids may reduce the risk of conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease," Dr. Cassidy said. "This is the first study to look at the association between flavonoids and erectile dysfunction, which affects up to half of all middle-aged and older men."

For this study, Dr. Cassidy and team looked at more than 25,000 middle-aged men with ED who were otherwise in good health. ED symptoms were self-reported on several occasions, dating back to 1986. Data on dietary intake was collected every four years.

More than one third of these men reported new onset ED during the 10-year study period. However, those who consumed a diet rich in flavonoids were much less likely to do so.

"Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 percent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction," Dr. Cassidy said. "In terms of quantities, we're talking just a few portions a week."

Dr. Cassidy and team also looked at other lifestyle factors and found that men who ate flavonoid-rich diets and were also physically active had the lowest risk of ED. A combination of consuming flavonoid-rich foods with regular exercise reduced the risk of ED by 21 percent.

This study was published Jan. 13 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interests was not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
January 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 18, 2016