Erectile dysfunction affects more than 18 percent of American men 20 and older and has led to the creation of multiple billion dollar blockbuster drugs. But new research suggests that expensive pills are not the only way to combat the condition.
Coffee, it turns out, may be quite effective as well.
A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, found that men who consume more caffeine have a lower risk of erectile dysfunction.
The only exception is men with diabetes, who were unaffected by caffeine intake.
"Even though we saw a reduction in the prevalence of erectile dysfunction with men who were obese, overweight and hypertensive, that was not true of men with diabetes. Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for erectile dysfunction, so this was not surprising," lead author Dr. David Lopez, assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health, said in a press release.
"These findings also support the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee position that drinking three to five cups a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease; two conditions that are well established as significant risk factors for erectile dysfunction," said Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, director of Male Reproductive Medicine at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital.
Lopez and colleagues looked at data on more than 3,700 men observed by the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The men answered questionnaires asking them to recall their caffeine intake over the past 24 hours.
The level of caffeine needed to reduce the risk of impotence was equal to two to three cups in a given day.
When men consumed zero to 7 milligrams of caffeine a day versus when they consumed 85 to 170 milligrams of caffeine a day, the men who consumed more were 42 percent less likely to report erectile dysfunction, while those who consumed 171 to 303 milligrams of caffeine a day were 39 percent less likely to report the condition, the Texas team said.
The study was not limited to just coffee as the study included beverages such as coffee, tea, soda and sports drinks.
The study authors believe that caffeine may relax certain arteries and muscles in the penis, improving blood flow and the ability to maintain an erection.
Experts in the field agreed with the findings. "More research is needed, but what scientists think is happening here is that coffee and caffeine are causing cavernous smooth muscle tissue (found in the penis) to relax, allowing more blood flow to the area and leading to improved erectile function," said Dr. David Samadi, chair of urology at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital.
The study has been published online in the journal PLOS One.