Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
I'm overweight...could it cause erectile dysfunction?
David Sobel, MD, JD on August 9, 2011
Yes, being overweight can have an effect on your libido or sex drive...and it may contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED).Body image is one contributing factor...you look in the mirror and not like what you see. So it’s not uncommon to feel less sexy and desirable.
In a large study at Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center, around 30% of very overweight people looking to lose weight said they had trouble with desire, sex drive, performance or all three.
As we gain weight and age, we’re also more likely to developdiabetes...which can also contribute to ED. So it’s a good idea to see your doctor and have your blood sugar checked. Over time, diabetes (especially uncontrolled diabetes) can damage those tiny blood vessels all over the body, including the ones that take blood to the penis.
Changes in weight can also mean changes in hormone levels, which can affect sex drive and ED. All men convert testosterone to another sex hormone called estradiol in our fat. And men who are overweight can get increased conversion. This may affect libido, as well...so, as a first step, I encourage you to see your doctor to find out what’s exactly what’s happening in your case.
Even a little bit of weight loss may give your love life a boost. Losing as little as 10 pounds through diet and exercise could help control any high blood sugar; and it may help to balance out your hormones. Exercise can also increase blood flow. And some men find that just making an effort to take good care of themselves can do wonders to improve their self-image and sex drive.
In fact,a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that, when 55 obese men made lifestyle changes to eat healthy and exercise, about one-third of them reported their ED improved.
Thanks again for coming to us with your concern. I wish you good luck as you work with your doctor to determine a health plan that makes sense for you.
Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.