A new study suggests that hitting the gym could help men avoid diet-induced erectile dysfunction.
Christopher Wingard and his colleagues at East Carolina University used rats put on a “junk food” diet to test the effects of aerobic exercise.
They found that exercise effectively improved both erectile dysfunction and the function of vessels that supply blood to the heart.
For 12 weeks, the researchers fed a group of rats chow that reflected the Western diet, high in sugar and with nearly half its calories from fat. Another group of rats ate a healthy standard rat chow instead.
Half of the animals in each group exercised five days a week, running intervals on a treadmill.
At the end of the 12 weeks, anesthetised animals’ erectile function was assessed by electrically stimulating the cavernosal nerve, which causes an increase in penile blood flow and produces an erection.
The researchers also examined the rats’ coronary arteries to see how they too responded to agents that would relax them and maintain blood flow to the heart, an indicator of heart health.
The findings showed that rats who ate the Western diet but stayed sedentary developed erectile dysfunction and poorly relaxing coronary arteries.
However, those who ate the diet but exercised were able to stave off these problems.
Animals who ate the healthy chow were largely able to avoid both erectile dysfunction and coronary artery dysfunction.
The study is published online in the American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology.