Coffee May Perk Up More Than Men's Brains: It May Ward Off Erectile Dysfunction
According to a new study out in the journalPLOS ONElast week, caffeine intake is linked to reduced odds of having erectile dysfunction (ED) in men who drink the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee per day. Among the lifestyle factors that are known to put a man at risk of ED – poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and alcohol consumptions – caffeine has not been of the biggest candidates. But the new study suggests that like other areas of physical and mental health, ED may be another beneficiary of caffeine’s fascinating benefits. Since erectile function, and dysfunction, is in some ways an extension of cardiovascular health – and caffeine is known to help heart health in certain ways – the idea that it could also help ED may not be so surprising. But for men who are devout coffee drinkers, the results may come as good news.
Erectile dysfunction affects about 18 million men over the age of 20, and among middle-aged men, the numbers grow: about 44% of men over 40 suffer from it, and 70% of men over the age of 70 do.
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In the new study, the authors looked at data from 3,700 men who filled out questionnaires about their diets, exercise habits, alcohol consumption, caffeine consumption (from coffee, tea, soda, and sports drinks), and other lifestyle factors – and whether they suffered from ED. When the team ran correlations, they found that men who drank 85-170 mg of caffeine per day were 42% less likely to have dealt with ED. Those who drank 171-303 mg of caffeine were 39% less likely to have the disorder. These amounts are roughly the equivalent two to three cups of coffee per day.
Why would caffeine prevent against ED? Caffeine is known to affect blood vesselfunction, which the authors suggest is the likely mechanism for its effects on ED. They write that the “suggested biological mechanism is that caffeine triggers a series of pharmacological effects that lead to the relaxation of the penile helicine arteries, and the cavernous smooth muscle that lines cavernosal spaces, thus increasing penile blood flow.” In other words, arteries and smooth muscle relax, blood flow is enhanced, and the “cavernous” space in the penis that contributes to erection fills with blood more easily.
The results were even true even for men with high blood pressure, or who were overweight or obese. Men with diabetes did not experience the same protective effects from caffeine, possibly because diabetes brings with it its own set of vascular problems. “Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for ED, so this was not surprising,” said study author David S. Lopez in a statement.
Whether men should start drinking coffee, if they don’t already, to ward off ED is unclear. Coffee brings with it a number of documented health benefits, for both body and brain, which research is illustrating more and more every day. But experts don’t often recommend picking up a new habit (especially with an addictive substance) if a person has gone his whole life without it. It’s probably worth talking with your doctor if you’re considering starting a coffee habit. But if you’re currently a caffeine partaker, it’s good to know that among its many health benefits, sexual health may be yet another.
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