How eating berries could possibly prevent erectile dysfunction

A new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Harvard University in the US, states that consumption of berries and citrus fruit may reduce the risk of men developing problems having and sustaining an erection.

Berries and citrus fruits have a very high content of flavonoids. These are a wide ranging group of chemical substances that are present in all fruits and vegetables and they are the ones that make the fruits and vegetables so colorful.


Over the past few years, many scientists are trying to understand if the health benefits related to "5-a-day" diet are because of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nature of flavonoids. Research studies have found some link between flavonoids and their ability to help prevent cancer and improve cardiac health.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, evaluates the role of flavonoid containing foods on prevention of erectile dysfunction by enhancing vascular health. The focused on six main categories of commonly consumed flavonoids and found that three of them- anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones were the most beneficial.

Lead researcher Professor Aedin Cassidy from UEA, says, "It's all about inadequate blood supply and impaired blood flow. What's really interesting about the flavonoids is that there's clinical trial data and also lab data suggesting that they can improve blood pressure, they can improve blood flow and make our arteries more flexible."

25,096 professional men were enrolled in a US health study in 2000. Data from these men was evaluated by the researchers. The participants were asked to rate whether they were able to get an erection suitable enough for intercourse to happen. They were asked for the rating of their erectile function thrice, which is in 2000, 2004 and 2008. Data was also collected about their ability to have an erection in the past years as far back as 1986. They were also asked to maintain a record of their eating patterns every 4 years.

The research found that over the time frame 10 years, 35.6% of the men gave an account of having issues getting an erection for the first time but, the chances of experiencing the condition were less likely in those who had a diet that was rich in anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones.

Berries and Citrus Fruits

According to Professor Cassidy, "When we looked at specific fruits, the greatest benefits were from berries, [which contain] flavonoids called anthocyanins that are responsible for that lovely blue-red color you get in berries and in aubergines." She further went on to state that, "A reduction in risk was associated with eating any fruit, but some were more effective than others. The next most effective were citrus flavanones."

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, red wine, apples, pears, cherries and citrus products are the major sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones.

The authors draw your attention to the fact that this study was not a clinical trial where cause and effect are evaluated under strict conditions but an observational study based on data derived from an existing health study.

Consuming More Fruit

According to Professor Cassidy, the best part is that consumption of more readily accessible fruit could boost your health. She says, "Just incorporating a few extra portions of fruit, particularly berries and citrus in the diet, will not only benefit your sexual health but in the longer term would offer protection against having a heart attack."

Claire Pettitt, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, in his email about the study had this to say, "Foods containing flavonoids, i.e. plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables, should make up a large part of our diets as we already know they provide many health benefits such as improving cardiovascular function and heart health, reducing risk of cancer and antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory properties and improvements in blood flow to the brain which can lead to improved cognitive function."

"The study also showed that the benefits achieved from consuming flavonoids matched the benefit already known to be gained from increased exercise and that in fact, a combination of a healthy diet containing a variety of flavonoids, and regular exercise had a cumulative effect."

"This research really supports the recommendation to have fruits and vegetables everyday as part of a healthy balanced diet and to be regularly physically active."