What could vitamin D have to do with erection problems?
Boosting levels of vitamin D just might help men with erectile dysfunction (ED). Because there is a link between heart disease, asthma, depression, periodontal disease, falls and fractures and low levels of the vitamin, researchers writing in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology suggest vitamin D deficiency could also be a risk for erectile dysfunction.
Vitamin D deficiency linked to other erectile dysfunction risks
Conditions associated with erectile dysfunction (ED) also include those that are linked to low vitamin D, making it entirely possible that low levels of the so called sunshine vitamin might contribute to erection problems.
Dr. Richard Quinton, Consultant Physician (endocrinologist), The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals, England warns erectile dysfunction can be a manifestation of any number of diseases that may not be readily apparent.
He says it’s important to note “…any occult systemic disease can precipitate ED many years before it becomes clinically apparent.”
Men with ED should always be checked for diabetes and heart disease, but Quinton also suggests you have our vitamin D level checked when seeking medical treatment for erectile dysfunction.
According to William B. Grant, Ph.D., director of Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center, a coauthor of the paper, “While it is not clear what role increasing vitamin D concentrations to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/l) will have on erectile dysfunction, it will reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer, and several infectious diseases. Thus, a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction not due to prostate surgery or psychological state should be considered a wakeup call to investigate the roles of solar UVB and vitamin D for improving overall health.”
Quinton says risk of vitamin D deficiency that could contribute to erection difficulties may be the result of “… constitutively darker skin type, conscious or unconscious sun-avoidance behaviour, including culturally or behaviorally-determined forms of clothing, routine use of SPF sunblock in everyday life, shift work, obesity, medication with immunosuppressants or anticonvulsants, or bowel disease…”
Lifestyle changes that can help with erectile dysfunction include smoking cessation, exercise, weight loss and consuming a healthy diet.
It might also be possible to treat erectile dysfunction by taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months and making sure you get enough sunshine to prevent skin damage while maximizing vitamin D synthesis in the body during warmer weather.
Another benefit of sunshine is it boosts nitric oxide levels in the body – a compound that relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. Vitamin D is shown to keep blood vessels healthy, which is why low levels are associated with higher risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Middle-aged men who have difficulty obtaining or maintaining erection might consider asking for a blood test to check their vitamin D levels when they go to the doctor for a prescription such as Viagra or Cialis.
The authors suggest exposing as much skin as possible, rather than just the face and arms.
Studies don’t prove low vitamin D levels lead to erectile dysfunction, but the study authors say it’s entirely possible.
More research is needed to understand how lack of sunshine's vitamin D might contribute to the development of ED. If the authors suggestion is correct, it could mean better approaches for treating the problem, without the potential negative side effects that accompany drugs that are currently the first choice of treatment for men with erectile dysfunction.
"Does vitamin D deficiency contribute to erectile dysfunction?"
Marc Sorenson and William B. Grant
Updated January 22, 2013