FRIDAY, August 5, 2011 (Health.com) — Viagra gets the job done, but it’s a quick fix. For many men, weaning themselves off the little blue pill and finding a longer-lasting solution to their sexual dysfunction may require hitting the gym and putting down the doughnuts.
A new Australian study, published today in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that losing just 5% to 10% of body weight over a two-month period improved the erectile function—and revved up the sex drives—of obese men with diabetes.
The study was very small (it included just 31 men), so the results should be taken with a grain of salt. But the findings are yet another reminder that obesity and erectile dysfunction (ED) often go hand in hand.
Excess weight—especially excess belly fat—can affect sexual function in many ways; it can interfere with the body’s ability to supply blood to the penis, for instance, and it can cause testosterone production to plummet.
And though the research on weight loss and sexual dysfunction is still emerging, there’s growing evidence that men who get active, eat healthier foods, and pare a few pounds will see their sex lives improve—not to mention their overall health.
In fact, doctors express hope that the promise of an improved sex life will finally get through to all the overweight and obese men who haven’t responded to dire warnings about heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
“You talk all the prevention you want,” says Kevin Billups, MD, an associate professor of urology at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. “When I talk about restoring penile health, I have their attention.”
When a patient comes to see him about ED, one of the first things Dr. Billups tells him to do is to stand up and look at his belly. “If you can’t see your penis,” he says, “that’s a problem.”
Next page: How obesity hits below the belt