As many as 75% of men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction, typically developing the condition 10 to 15 years earlier than men who do not have diabetes. But new research from the University of Adelaide in Australia indicates that a modest weight loss of only 5% can improve erectile function and sexual desire — as well as reduce bladder problems — in obese men with Type 2.
The researchers looked at 31 men with Type 2 and a body-mass index greater than 30, screening them for sexual and urological problems. Some of the men were assigned to receive a low-calorie diet based on meal replacements while others were given a high-protein, low-fat diet (comprised of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and fish) that lowered their typical calorie intake by 600 calories a day.
After eight weeks, men on the low-calorie diet had lost between 8% and 10% of their body weight and 10% off their waist circumference, while men on the high-protein diet had lost roughly 5% of their body weight and waist circumference. Participants in both groups improved their blood glucose and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, urinary symptoms, erectile function, sexual desire, and endothelial function (the function of a thin layer of cells that line blood vessels).
After the end of the eight-week period, all men were assigned to the high-protein diet and followed for the rest of the year. At the end of the study, all the men had lost about 10% of their weight and showed continued improvement in urologic and sexual function throughout the end of the study period. The improvements in desire and erectile function and the decrease in urinary symptoms are likely explained by reduced inflammation and increased testosterone levels and blood flow resulting from the weight loss.
According to lead study author Gary Wittert, MBBch, MD, FRACP, FRCP, “Medication is expensive, medical care is expensive, here’s a lifestyle change that’s quick, cheap, easy, and can improve health substantially beyond anything that medication can do…” “When you get home,” he suggests, “instead of sitting down in front of the [TV], take your wife by the hand and say, ‘Come, darling, let’s go for a walk.’ After a month of this, her heart will get fonder and your erection will get stronger.”
To learn more about the study, read the article “Sex Lives of Diabetic Men Improve With Weight Loss” or “Weight Loss Improves Sex for Diabetic Men,” or see the study’s abstract in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
And for more information on how you can improve your sexual health, check out these articles.
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Senior Digital Editor for Diabetes Self-Management E-News and DiabetesSelfManagement.com. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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