BOSTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- New research suggests foods rich in flavonoids, such as berries, citrus and red wine, may reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Flavonoids are the biochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. Researchers identified a link between lower ED rates and three specific flavonoids -- anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones.
High levels of anthocyanins are found in berries, especially blueberries, cherries, blackberries, currants and red wine. Citrus fruits boast high levels of flavanones and flavones.
"Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 percent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction," lead study author Aedin Cassidy, a nutrition professor at East Anglia, said in a press release. "In terms of quantities, we're talking just a few portions a week."
The findings are the result of a longitudinal study involving 25,000 middle-aged and older men who have been answering survey questions about sexual health and diet over the last 20 years.
Researchers did their best to account for potentially mitigating factors like body weight, physical activity, smoking habits and caffeine consumption. All of the study participants were in good physical and mental health.
The positive link between flavonoids and erectile health was most pronounced when combined with regular exercise.
Previous research found a link between flavonoids and improved cardiovascular health, and studies have also found a healthy combination of diet and exercise linked with lower rates of ED.
"Erectile dysfunction is often an early barometer of poor vascular function and offers a critical opportunity to intervene and prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and even death," said senior study author Eric Rimm, an epidemiology and nutrition professor at Harvard.
"Men with erectile dysfunction are likely to be highly motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising more and eating the right foods -- which would greatly benefit their long-term cardiovascular health as well."