Can a daily dose of vitamin D prevent the male population from suffering erectile dysfunction? Experts say it could.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a sexual dysfunction in which the male is not able to maintain or achieve erection to have sexual intercourse. Also known as impotence, it affects about 40 percent of men above 40 years old and 70 percent above the age of 70. An estimated 20 to 30 million of the American male population suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Causes of Erectile Dysfunction:
Causes of erectile dysfunction are divided into two types:
- Psychological or mental: These can include stress, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
- Physical or organic: These can include diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, nerve and spinal cord damage, pelvic trauma and surgery, Peyronie’s disease, medication side effects, substance abuse, alcoholism, smoking, and low testosterone levels.
Vitamin D, popularly called the sunshine vitamin, is a micronutrient that the body can produce through exposure to sunlight. The sun remains as the major source of the vitamin but the body can also get it from consumption of vitamin D-rich foods and from supplements.
Vitamin D plays a significant role in achieving optimal health. It helps regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption and maintain healthy bones and teeth. Studies have also revealed the protective effects of vitamin D against multiple diseases and conditions.
Vitamin D deficiency occurs when the body is not able to get adequate amount of vitamin D. This can lead to higher risk of various conditions and diseases such as diabetes, influenza, bone diseases, allergy, and cancer. Recent studies have also found a link between vitamin D deficiency and erectile dysfunction.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Erectile Dysfunction:
An observational study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University on the link between vitamin D deficiency and erectile dysfunction. The findings revealed that high prevalence of impotence was observed among males with vitamin D deficiency. Based on the findings, the researchers believe that low levels of vitamin D could fuel ED.
Dr. Erin Michos and her team have analyzed the records of more than 3,400 male participants aged 20 and above from a survey held from 2001 to 2004. From the data gathered, none of the participants had overt cardiovascular disease, about 30 percent were deficient in vitamin D, and 16 percent have reported experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction. About 35 percent of participants with ED were vitamin D deficient (<20 ng/ml) while the deficiency was present in only 29 percent of participants without symptoms of impotence. Participants deficient in vitamin D were 32 percent more likely to experience ED than those with adequate vitamin D levels.
With regard to the findings of the study, Dr. Michos and her colleagues state that they are only observational and more studies are required to determine whether vitamin D deficiency directly contributes to ED. The research team indicates that checking the levels of vitamin D may become a useful tool to gauge the risk of ED among the male population.
Another data, this time gathered by Italian researchers from the University of Milan suggests that low vitamin D levels may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction. In the majority of cases, the cause of ED is organic and the most common organic cause is atherosclerosis of the penile artery.
Using the link between atherosclerosis and vitamin D deficiency, the study was conducted on 143 males with erectile dysfunction. The participants underwent evaluation for penile atherosclerosis and vitamin D blood levels were also taken.
Fifty males were found to have atherosclerotic erectile dysfunction, 28 with borderline ED, while the rest had non-atherosclerotic ED. Nearly half of the participants were vitamin D deficient (<20 ng/ml) with only 20.2 percent having vitamin D levels above the optimal level (30 ng/ml or above).
The results revealed that most males with erectile dysfunction have low levels of vitamin D. Participants with severe ED were observed to have significantly lower levels of vitamin D compared to those suffering mild ED. The data also revealed that vitamin D deficiency was worse in men with atherosclerotic ED compared to those with non-atherosclerotic ED. The results suggest a link between low vitamin D levels and erectile dysfunction and that vitamin D should be measured in males with ED.
Insufficient vitamin D levels may lead to the production of the free radicals superoxide ions, states study author Alessandra Barassi, M.D. and her team. The free radicals reduce the nitric oxide in the body, a molecule that aids the blood vessels to function properly. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels relax to increase the blood flow. Reduced amount of nitric oxide makes it difficult for the blood vessels to relax, which leads to difficulty in getting hard and allowing an erection.
The study recommends that ED patients with low vitamin D take supplements to achieve its optimal level (30 ng/ml or higher). Currently, Dr. Barassi is working on a study on whether supplementation of vitamin D can be used as preventive measure to delay the onset of erectile dysfunction.
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