Which Vitamins Help Erectile Dysfunction?
Find out which vitamins help erectile dysfunction and how they support the bodily processes involved in erections.
Published: Tuesday 28 June 2022
When it comes to effectively treating ED, a combination of clinically proven treatments and a healthy lifestyle are foremost recommended. Vitamins play an essential role in a range of important bodily processes, contributing to healthy erectile function. But can vitamins help with erectile dysfunction? Whilst vitamins are not capable of curing erectile dysfunction, which is why they don't make effective ED treatment substitutes, there is evidence to suggest they can help to support the processes of achieving and maintaining an erection. This blog will explore what those vitamins are, how they may be able to reduce the symptoms of ED and in what foods you can find them in.
Erectile dysfunction prevalence and treatment options
Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common health conditions affecting men globally, with an estimated third of all men having experienced the condition , and it’s expected to affect 322 million men by 2025 . Erectile dysfunction is more likely to occur in men over 40, who are three times more likely to experience it than younger men . However, young men aren’t exempt from erectile dysfunction; in fact, a US study showed that ED affects 26% of men under 40 years old .
As erectile dysfunction is such a common condition, there’s an extensive source of medical knowledge on effective treatment options. These consist of oral medications including Viagra, Sildenafil (a generic Viagra counterpart), Cialis, Tadalafil, Levitra and Vardenafil. However, making lifestyle changes along with taking ED medication can further reduce the impact of ED - such as staying fit through exercise, getting enough sleep or, in this case, ensuring that you have a sufficient intake of dietary vitamins and micronutrients.
How do vitamins help erectile dysfunction?
Vitamins and minerals are crucial for your body to function well; they help with the development of your organs and bones, as well as powering bodily processes and systems, like the reproductive system.
The role of vitamins in helping maintain healthy erectile function has been explored extensively in research studies. Interestingly, vitamins have been closely linked with the treatment and management of ED, such as improving blood flow, metabolic function and erectile function, where a lack of sufficient vitamin supplementation was previously observed. Whilst the findings are promising on the topic, it’s important to understand the continued need for more research into the link between ED and vitamin supplementation. So, which vitamins are important when it comes to helping erectile dysfunction?
Which vitamins reduce the risk of ED?
- Vitamin D
Despite the sun being the primary source of vitamin D for humans, vitamin D deficiency across the global population has increased over the last two decades .
Furthermore, a lack of vitamin D is also linked to endothelial dysfunction. This is a condition where the inner lining of the arterioles fail to dilate and constrict normally, causing a reduction in nitric oxide levels, which leads to excess constriction of the blood vessels and inflammation in the blood vessel walls. Consequently, this can lead to ED as not enough blood can flow to the penis to start an erection. In addition, a lack of vitamin D has also been linked to some independent risk factors for ED, like multiple sclerosis, depression, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
When it comes to using the sun as a source of vitamin D, it is recommended you spend 5-30 minutes in the sun each day or, as a minimum, twice a week to absorb enough vitamin D.
For those who aren’t able to spend as much time outside, or prefer not to, Vitamin D supplements and specific foods are a much more accessible source of vitamin D. Foods to look out for include:
- Red meat
- Oily fish
- Egg yolks
- Cheese, milk and other dairy products
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. A 2014 study showed that many of the participants who experienced ED also had a deficiency in folic acid , whilst a 2020 study indicated ED patients that took folic acid supplements experienced an improvement in the severity of their ED symptoms . This is likely because a lack of folic acid can affect the body’s nitric oxide metabolism, the compound which controls the relaxing of the smooth muscles in the penis, which in turn increases blood flow to the area. In addition, a lack of folic acid can also cause endothelial dysfunction, contributing to the chance of developing ED symptoms.
For foods that are rich in folic acid, try:
- Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons and grapefruits
- Legumes, like beans, peas and lentils
Alternatively, you can take Vitamin B9 supplements to conveniently ensure a sufficient intake of folic acid.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 is another vitamin that could help improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. A 2011 study recommended niacin for improving erectile function in patients who are suffering from moderate to severe ED . The vitamin helps promote metabolic function, in particular improving cholesterol and lipid levels, which are associated with the buildup of plaque in the arteries known as atherosclerosis. By reducing atherosclerosis, blood flow to the penis can be improved, reducing the effects of ED. A previous study found that participants who took niacin regularly found it easier to achieve and maintain an erection compared to those who did not consistently take the Vitamin B3.
When finding foods that are rich in vitamin B3, keep an eye out for:
- Turkey or chicken breast
- Salmon & tuna
- Ground beef
- Bran, yeast and whole-grain cereals
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Again, whilst there is no evidence that vitamin C can cure ED, it’s a great booster for improving the critical biological processes involved with erections, such as the production of nitric oxide. Not only that, but vitamin C is an effective antioxidant, protecting the body against harmful toxins and pollutants that can build up internally, leading to health issues like heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
In addition to Vitamin C supplements, there are plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin C that include:
- Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit
In short, whilst vitamins can have a positive effect on reducing the impact of erectile dysfunction, the most effective ED treatment remains a combination of both clinical medications and lifestyle changes that will ultimately keep your body functioning as healthily as it can. Research shows that vitamins alone can’t treat ED, but by taking them you are supporting the internal processes in your body that are crucial to the functioning of erections, as well as other functions.
Authored by Amber Mitchell-Hanna
Pharmica Medical Writer
Amber is an experienced writer and content specialist, graduating from De Montfort University with an LLB & an MA in Investigative Journalism.
She particularly enjoys creating informative health content, debunking medical misconceptions, and championing inclusion and diversity.