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Flavonoids and Erectile Dysfunction

From sports channels to the evening news, we can’t watch TV without happening upon a commercial for erectile dysfunction (ED). This is likely because, according to some estimates, as many as half of the male population is or will be affected by erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives.1 Clearly, there are medications available that can help to address this issue for an aging population, and we sure do know them by name! But did you know that eating certain foods might also reduce your risk for or lessen the incidence of ED? A large-scale study examining the relationship between foods containing flavonoids and the incidence of erectile dysfunction showed some promising results.

Many believe that erectile dysfunction and poor cardiovascular health share the same cause: namely, a dysfunction of the lining of the vessels, which results in atherosclerosis that diminishes blood flow. Those with diabetes and other metabolic syndromes are also at greater risk for ED.2 So, since exercise and a high intake of flavonoid-rich foods can be cardio-protective, the same association might exist between flavonoids and ED. “Flavonoids” is an umbrella term for a group of over five thousand compounds found in plant-based foods. The best known of these compounds are anthocyanins (for example, blueberries) and flavones and flavanones (for example, oranges); these compounds were recently the focus of a study that tested the hypothesis that there exists a relationship between flavonoid intake and ED.

Researchers from East Anglia University and Harvard University, in a joint study, examined data from over 25 thousand participants and ranked them into five categories based on their reported intake of flavonoids. In a comparison of those at the highest level of intake versus those at the lowest level of intake, those with the highest intake of flavonoids had a 9-11% reduction in the incidence of erectile dysfunction. Those with the highest flavonoid intake also had the highest reported level of physical activity. However, even when exercise was excluded from the analysis, the association between flavonoid intake and ED remained.3

Flavonoids are also being studied for their potential effects on other diseases. They are thought to be powerful antioxidants and can scavenge free radicals, which, if left unchecked, can contribute to the development of cancer, coronary heart disease, autoimmune disease, and other illnesses.

So, what should you eat to get the benefits of flavonoids? The Mediterranean diet, rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, nuts, and beans, is a good way to consume an abundance of flavonoids, and it provides general guidelines for how you should be eating. Most plant-based diets that include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts will also likely be flavonoid-rich. The following foods are particularly high in flavonoids and should be included in your diet:

  • Fruit: blueberries, citrus fruits, bananas, and strawberries
  • Vegetables: onions, dried and fresh parsley
  • Red wine
  • Black and oolong tea

If you really needed another reason to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, this just might be it!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. University of East Anglia. (2016, January 13). Blueberries, citrus fruits, red wine associated with reduced erectile dysfunction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 19, 2016 from
  2. Chew, KK, Bremner A, Jamrozik, K, Earle C, Stuckey B. Make erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease: is there an intimate nexus? J Sex Med 2008; 5:928-34.
  3. Cassidy, A, Franz, M, Rimm, E. Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. Am J Clin Nutr 2016; 103-:534-41.