Still trying to settle on your resolution for the New Year? If you’re a man who has erectile dysfunction, you may want to move adopting a Mediterranean diet to the top of your list: According to new research from the University of Athens, the popular eating style may help improve the heart health of men with this condition.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating style that emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, fish, fruits, low-fat dairy, nuts, and legumes. Previous research has indicated that it confers a variety of health benefits, from protecting kidney health to reducing sleep apnea to lowering the risk of peripheral arterial disease.
Up to 30 million men in the United States have erectile dysfunction, and somewhere between 35% and 75% of men with diabetes are estimated to have the condition to some degree.
To determine the cardiovascular effects of the Mediterranean diet in men with erectile dysfunction, researchers evaluated 75 men (average age of 56) with the condition to determine how closely their diets resembled the eating style, based on factors such as consumption of olive oil, fish, and vegetables. The participants were also given a cardiac ultrasound to evaluate their heart health, based on factors such as artery stiffness, plaque build-up, and blood pressure.
The researchers found that men with a score of 20 points or fewer on the Mediterranean diet scale, indicating low adherence to the diet, had significantly poorer heart health — evidenced by features such as thicker arterial lining and a stiffer aorta (the main artery of the body) — than men with intermediate or higher scores on the scale.
“Previous studies have shown that patients with erectile dysfunction have vascular damage, but we found that the heart is also damaged. This may help to further explain why these patients are more prone to cardiovascular events,” noted study author Athanasios Angelis, MD. The study findings indicate that adopting a Mediterranean eating plan might “improve the cardiovascular risk profile of patients with erectile dysfunction and may reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke.”
The study was limited by several factors, including its small size, reliance on self-reported data, and nonrandomized nature. Nonetheless, although acknowledging that the findings need to be confirmed in larger studies, the researchers suggest that doctors should encourage their patients to adopt healthier diets.
For more information, read the article “ED Patients Gain From Med Diet” or see the study’s abstract (Abstract P185) from the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging meeting. To learn more about adopting a Mediterranean diet, read “Go Mediterranean and Help Your Diabetes,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.
And to try some Mediterranean-inspired dishes, see the following recipes: