An Italian Recipe for Men

How losing weight can gain you a better love life

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Just about everyone agrees that Italy is one of the most romantic countries in the world. And now there's news from Italy that could help put a twinkle in your eyes, no matter where you live.

Italian scientists have discovered a surprising solution that may help the millions of men who suffer from erectile dysfunction: weight loss.

Since the introduction of Viagra and similar drugs, there's been increased interest in the study and treatment of erectile dysfunction (which basically means problems with getting and keeping an erection). According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, roughly 52% of men aged 40-70 suffer some degree of erectile dysfunction, or ED.

The Italian study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004, involved 110 obese men aged 35-55 with ED. The researchers put them on a program of healthy eating and exercise to help them lose 10% or more of their body weight.

After two years, the study group had lost an average of 33 pounds and were more physically active -- and about one-third of them had seen a significant improvement in sexual function.

Earlier studies had shown that men who are at normal weight and are physically active are at lower risk for ED. But the Italian study was one of the first looking at treatments for the condition beyond surgery and drugs.

Its findings led Christopher Saigal, MD, to write an editorial in the same issue of the journal encouraging doctors to consider weight loss and exercise as the initial treatment for obese patients with ED.

The Weight Connection

An estimated four out of five men with ED have BMIs (body mass indexes) greater than 25. According to the researchers, overweight men with BMIs of 28.7 (that's about 195 pounds for a 5'9" male) have a 30% greater risk for developing ED than normal-weight men.

In addition to the risk of sexual dysfunction, being overweight increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Further more, high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes, heavy alcohol consumption, and blood-pressure drugs all put a man at higher risk for ED. And weight loss can help you reduce or eliminate nearly all of these risk factors, according to Atlanta-based urologist David Perlow, MD.

"It is well-accepted that obesity is a co-factor in atherosclerotic disease that can impede blood flow," says Perlow. "Losing weight can improve blood flow not only to the heart but also to other organs, including the penis."

Benefits of Weight Loss

The benefits of weight loss go well beyond improving sexual function, of course. Losing weight reduces the risk of heart disease and improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and many other health conditions.

Even losing as little as 5%-10% of your body weight can lead to major improvements in your health, including lowering your blood pressure and blood fat levels.

And just think about how great you'd feel if you lost 20 pounds. To visualize this, imagine carrying 20 pounds worth of hand weights in a backpack all day. Then think about how good it would feel when you finally took the backpack off at the end of the day.

You Look Marvelous

Besides the health benefits, shedding extra pounds can make you feel better about yourself and enhance your body image. Perlow says that losing weight provides a huge psychological boost that can be instrumental in sexual performance.

"If you feel better and look better, you will perform better in the bedroom," he asserts.

So use this information as extra incentive to keep following your healthy eating plan and getting enough physical activity.

Then dress up the new and improved you in clothing that makes you look and feel great. Take that feeling of self-esteem into the privacy of your bedroom, and let it help you put sizzle into your love life.

Published Feb. 3, 2005.


SOURCES: Journal of the American Medical Association, June 23-30, 2004. Journal of the American Medical Association, 292:2467; Journal of Urology, 1994; David Perlow, MD, urologist, Atlanta.

©2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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