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Eating blueberries and citrus may help men avoid a sexual problem

THE QUESTION Losing weight, exercising more and stopping smoking are among lifestyle changes thought to help men who have trouble getting or keeping an erection. Might eating certain foods help as well?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 25,096 men, 40 to 75 years old, who did not have cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction or prostate, bladder or testicular cancer. Dietary data included the men’s consumption of foods and beverages containing high levels of flavonoids, plant chemicals that are present in tea, wine and many fruits and vegetables. In a 10-year span, about 36 percent of the men experienced erectile dysfunction, or ED. Those who regularly ate the most flavonoid-rich foods and beverages — especially blueberries and citrus products but also strawberries, apples, pears and red wine — were 14 percent less likely to have experienced ED than were men who consumed the least. The effects were strongest among those younger than 70 and overweight or obese men.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Men. ED can affect men at any age, but it becomes more common with age. An estimated third to half of all men experience ED at some point in their lives. A variety of physical and psychological conditions — including diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, stress and depression — can lead to ED, as can various medicines and treatments. Besides treating possible underlying conditions, the most common treatment is medication.

CAVEATS Dietary data came from the men’s responses on periodic questionnaires; the researchers computed flavonoid consumption based on those responses. ED experience also came from responses on questionnaires rather than from medical reports, but all of the men were health professionals. Nearly all were white.

FIND THIS STUDY Jan. 13 online issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (ajcn.nutrition.org; click on “Articles in Press”).

LEARN MORE ABOUT erectile dysfunction at niddk.nih.gov and mayoclinic.org.

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals.