Weight Loss Improves Sex for Diabetic Men
Losing just a small amount of weight can improve the sex lives of men with diabetes, new research shows.
Men with diabetes are at risk for sexual problems and bladder issues because of nerve damage or reduced blood flow caused by the disease. As many as 75 percent of men with diabetes have some degree of erectile dysfunction, although the problem often goes undiagnosed. Although many men experience a decline in erectile function as they age, men with diabetes typically develop the problem 10 to 15 years sooner than healthy men, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
New research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that losing as little as 5 percent of body weight can lead to improvements in erectile function and desire and can also reduce bladder problems in obese men with Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide studied 31 obese men with Type 2 diabetes over eight weeks, putting 19 of them on a low-calorie meal replacement diet of just 900 calories a day. The remaining 12 men were prescribed a low-fat, high-protein, reduced-carbohydrate diet that reduced each manís daily caloric intake by about 600 calories.
After two months, the men eating the low-calorie diet lost the most weight, posting average declines of about 10 percent, compared with an average weight loss of about 5 percent for men in the high-protein diet group.
But in terms of sexual function, the men who lost just a little weight did just as well as men who lost more weight. Men in both groups showed marked improvement in erectile function and desire and a decline in urinary problems. The researchers followed the men for 12 months, and the improvements were maintained during that time.
"Although there were a small number of men in the study, the beneficial changes were so consistent and of such a magnitude that they are likely to be applicable more broadly to similar men," Dr. Gary Wittert, the studyís senior author, who heads the Discipline of Medicine department at the University of Adelaide, said in an e-mail. "Moderate weight loss is generally beneficial for diabetes and for cardiovascular risk. It is just not clear what particular magnitude of benefit may accrue for sexual and lower urinary tract symptoms, although my clinical experience suggests a lot."
The findings are the latest to show significant health benefits from even a small amount of weight loss. In men, losing weight can reduce inflammation, raise testosterone levels and increase blood flow, leading to increased desire, better erections and fewer urinary symptoms.
Many women with diabetes also experience sexual problems, but research on the topic is limited. Some studies show that 18 to 27 percent of women with Type 1 diabetes experience sexual dysfunction, as do 42 percent of women with Type 2 diabetes, according to the diabetes clearinghouse. In women, sexual problems related to diabetes include vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, low desire or decreased sexual response.
Although weight loss and better blood sugar control can, in general, help reduce the complications of diabetes, weight loss alone may not be the solution for women. Fluctuating hormone levels and menopause, among other things, can contribute to sexual dysfunction problems in women with diabetes. For more information on diabetes and womenís sexual health, visit the American Diabetes Association Web site.
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