Here at DiabetesSelfManagement.com, we frequently mention the benefits that following a healthy diet can have on your blood glucose levels, body weight, and overall health. But according to a recent study, following the right kind of diet can also improve a less frequently discussed aspect of your health: your sex life.
Published in the journal Diabetes Care, the study included 215 participants with newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes. Half of the participants (108) were randomly assigned to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes lean protein, whole grains, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, and red wine. The other half (107) were assigned to follow a low-fat diet. Both groups underwent numerous physical measurements and filled out a variety of surveys, both at the beginning of the study and over a follow-up period of roughly eight years.
One survey that each participant filled out was related to sexual function — for men, the International Index of Erectile Function; and for women, the Female Sexual Function Index. At the beginning of the study, there was no difference in the incidence of sexual dysfunction between the Mediterranean and low-fat diet groups. But over the course of the study — participants filled out the survey every six months — the two groups started to diverge, with the incidence of sexual dysfunction growing at a faster rate in the low-fat diet group. This pattern was seen in both men and women.
As noted in an article on the study at Healio, following a Mediterranean diet — compared with a low-fat diet — was shown to both help prevent new cases of sexual dysfunction, as well as reduce the worsening of preexisting sexual dysfunction. For both men and women, the risk of new sexual dysfunction was 56% lower on the Mediterranean diet. For men, the combined risk of new sexual dysfunction or worsening of preexisting dysfunction was 59% lower on the Mediterranean diet; for women, this combined risk was 50% lower on the Mediterranean diet.
In addition to these sexual benefits, participants who followed the Mediterranean experienced greater weight loss over the course of the study, by an average of 0.98 kilograms (2.16 pounds). They were also 53% more likely to have a lower HbA1c level (a measure of long-term blood glucose control) than the low-fat group, as well as 51% less likely to experience symptoms of depression.
What’s your reaction to this study — are you interested in trying a Mediterranean-style diet for its potential benefits to your sexual health? Have you tried following a Mediterranean diet in the past, and if so, how did the experience turn out? Have you noticed any changes in your sexual function that may have been related to your diet in the past? How important to you is preserving your sexual function, compared with other aspects of your health? Leave a comment below!
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.