Nov. 13 (UPI) -- A healthy diet reduces men's risk for erectile dysfunction by more than 20%, according to a study published Friday by JAMA Network Open.
Men with scores on the Mediterranean Diet scale and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 in the highest percentiles were 22% less likely to develop erectile dysfunction, or ED, than those with lower scores, the data showed.
The benefits of healthy diet were also seen in older men, with higher Mediterranean Diet scores associated with an 18% reduction in the risk for ED in men aged 60 years and older and a 7% reduction in ED risk in men aged 70 years and older.
Men with healthier diets are less likely to have diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure -- three health conditions linked with ED, according to the researchers.
They suggest that linking a healthy diet with reduced risk for ED might encourage men to make better food choices, which in turn would help prevent heart disease and high blood pressure, among other conditions.
"These findings suggest that men who are concerned about erectile dysfunction risk should be counseled regarding the potential contribution of their dietary practices," the researchers, from the University of California-San Francisco and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote.
The Mediterranean diet centers on meals built around vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains with moderate amounts of dairy, poultry, eggs and seafood and minimal consumption of red meat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Mediterranean diet score awards a point each for consuming above the average intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, grains, fish, and for consuming less than the average amount of dairy and red or processed meat as well as alcohol, the researchers said.
Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 evaluates individual diets based on compliance with the Healthy Eating Pyramid, rewarding higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
It also rewards lower intake of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fats and sodium, according to the researchers.
Among the more than 21,000 men included in this study, 968 developed ED.
Of the ED cases, 478 occurred in men with the lowest Mediterranean diet scores, compared to 229 among men with the highest scores, the data showed.
There were 130 cases of ED among men with the highest Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 scores, or half as many as those reported in men -- 266 -- with lower scores, the researchers said.
Men with ED is may be unable to get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Up to 15% of men in the U.S. experience the condition, which is treatable, at some point in their lives, research suggests.