A vegan diet could improve the sex lives of men and treat their erectile dysfunction, a study suggests.
A team from New York University Grossman School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at 3,500 men with prostate cancer for their research.
Some common side effects of prostate cancer treatment include erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
But the new research indicates that a diet which limits meat and dairy but is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts is linked to improved symptoms.
The team found that a plant-based diet improved the men’s sex lives by up to 11 per cent – and the researchers said the results could be applicable to men on other medications that sap libido and cause erectile dysfunction, such as antidepressants.
A vegan diet could improve the sex lives of men and give them firmer erections, a study suggests
It comes after a fascinating study on twins showed that women who went meat-free enjoyed higher libido than their meat-eating siblings.
Patients were sorted into five groups based on the proportion of plant and animal foods they said they eat.
Analysis revealed the group that consumed the most plants scored up to 11 per cent better in measures of sexual function compared with the group that consumed the least.
Similarly, the results revealed up to 14 per cent better scores for urinary health, with fewer instances of incontinence, obstruction, and irritation.
The authors further found up to 13 per cent better scores in hormonal health – which assesses symptoms like low energy and depression – among the highest group of plant-based diet compared with the lowest.
Lead author Dr Stacy Loeb said: ‘Our findings offer hope for those looking for ways to improve their quality of life after undergoing surgery, radiation, and other common therapies for prostate cancer, which can cause significant side effects.
‘Adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet, while reducing meat and dairy, is a simple step that patients can take.’
It is thought the study, published in the journal Cancer, is the first to show better urinary health in prostate cancer patients based on nutrition.
‘These results add to the long list of health and environmental benefits of eating more plants and fewer animal products,’ Dr Loeb added.
‘They also clearly challenge the historical misconception that eating meat boosts sexual function in men, when in fact the opposite seems to be the case.’
Previous research by the same team has already found that eating a plant-based diet may reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer in the first place.
Dr Loeb added: ‘Dietary fiber, polyphenols and antioxidants found in plant-based foods have been shown to improve glucose metabolism, reduce inflammation and ultimately improve endothelial function – for example, facilitating blood flow to the penis that is fundamental for erectile function.
‘By contrast, previous studies have found that eating meat is associated with worse erectile function, so possible mechanisms include a combination of direct benefits from the nutrients in plant-based foods as well as the reduction in animal-based foods.
‘The findings definitely support future research into whether a fully plant-based dietary pattern, for example a vegan diet, is associated with better sexual function.’
As part of the study, men with prostate cancer answered a questionnaire every four years about the kinds of foods they ate and in which proportions.
Another survey, which was administered every two years, assessed the frequency of incontinence, difficulties maintaining an erection, problems with energy and mood, among other health concerns.
All patients included in the study had early forms of prostate cancer that had not yet spread to other organs.
The experts said their findings support previous research into men without prostate cancer.
A prior study in men aged 60-70, who did not have prostate cancer, found that greater consumption of plant-based food was linked with a lower risk of erectile dysfunction.
Prostate cancer treatments can affect sex life by damaging the nerves that men need to get an erection.
Other treatments can affect the levels of hormones needed to get and maintain an erection.
According to Cancer Research UK, men suffering from these issues can try drug remedies such as tablets and creams, vacuum pumps and implants.