Weight loss might help very overweight men with sexual problems such as difficulty in getting erections, research suggests.
The study followed what happened to a group of 31 obese Australian men with type 2 diabetes who were put on weight-loss diets for a year. The researchers hoped that losing a lot of weight (10 percent or more of their body weight) would improve the men’s erection problems, and also their urinary symptoms, such as difficulty urinating.
At first sight, the study was successful. Most of the men did show improvements in their ability to get an erection, in their libido, and in their urinary symptoms. However, almost half of the men dropped out of the study after the first eight weeks. The study was intended to look at the long-term consequences of the diet after 12 months.
Because the study was quite small, and so many men dropped out, it’s hard to know how much we can rely on the 12-month results. The men who remained in the study did seem to benefit to some degree—although only five men in the group had normal levels of sexual function by the end of the study, and only seven of the 17 men with severe erection difficulties saw an improvement.
The first eight weeks involved a very low-calorie diet (900 calories daily) for half of the men, to test whether starting with a rapid weight-loss diet made any difference. This may explain the high number of drop-outs, as this type of diet can be quite difficult to follow. Twice as many men dropped out of this group compared with the group that followed a less intense weight-loss diet from the start.
The very low-calorie diet did mean men lost weight more quickly, but the one-year results were similar for both groups.
Bottom line: There are lots of good reasons to lose weight if you are obese, especially if you also have type 2 diabetes. This study may add another reason—to improve your sexual health—but we can’t be sure of the long-term results. Symptoms like difficulty getting an erection and difficulty urinating should always be checked out by a doctor. They could be a sign of more serious health problems.
See our advice on preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.
Comparing effects of a low-energy diet and a high-protein low-fat diet on sexual and endothelial function, urinary tract symptoms, and inflammation in obese diabetic men. [The Journal of Sexual Medicine.]
—Anna Sayburn, BMJ Group
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