There is no shortage of claims touting the benefits of vitamin D and now a new study says there is another area where the vitamin may help out. New research from Italy suggests that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED).
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection for satisfactory sexual activity, according to OnHealth.com.
The major role of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which forms and maintains strong bones.
Alessandra Barassi, MD, of University of Milan in Italy and her colleagues conducted a study of 143 men with varying degrees of erectile dysfunction. Using a penile echo-color-Doppler sonography, they assessed vascular quality.
MensHealth.com stated that nearly half of the men were coming up deficient in vitamin D, and only one in five had optimal levels of the nutrient. What’s more, men with severe cases of ED (called arteriogenic ED) had vitamin D levels that were about 24 percent lower than those with mild forms of the condition.
Barassi and colleagues reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that low levels of vitamin D "might increase the ED risk by promoting endothelial dysfunction," and that since low levels of vitamin D are common in all ED patients -- not just those with arteriogenic disease -- it "may be involved in the mechanism that promotes endothelial dysfunction causing ED."
Insufficient levels of vitamin D may spur the production of free radicals called superoxide ions, according to Barassi. These free radicals deplete your nitric oxide, a molecule that helps your blood vessels function properly.
“Nitric oxide causes the blood vessels to relax, which increases the blood flow and causes an erection under normal circumstances,” said Larry Lipshultz, M.D., a urology advisor for Men's Health. Without the necessary amounts of nitric acid, though, the blood vessels may not relax enough to allow for an erection.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) advises that men with ED should be analyzed for their vitamin D levels. For arteriogenic ED patients with low levels of vitamin D, the study recommended taking supplements to get back to the optimal level of 30 ng/mL or above.
Dr. Barassi is now studying whether vitamin D supplementation may act as a preventive measure to delay erectile dysfunction.
"Erectile Dysfunction: Learn Impotence Causes and Treatments." onhealth. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
Sgobba, Christa. "The Vitamin You Need So Your Penis Can Perform."@menshealthmag. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
"Vitamin D." - Drugs and Supplements. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.
"Vitamin D Blog: A Bedroom Boost." Vitamin D Blog: A Bedroom Boost. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
"Vitamin D and Erectile Dysfunction." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.
Reviewed September 19, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith