The much-hailed diet centers around plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts. It includes healthy fats such as olive oil, features red wine in moderation, but limits red meats. According to scientists at the University of Athens, it could preserve a man’s sexual health into his 60s and 70s without the need for erectile drugs, the Daily Mail reported.
A group of 670 men from the Greek island of Ikaria, with an average age of 67, volunteered for the study.
Of the total participants, a fifth experienced erectile dysfunction: below the average of 52 percent for men in this age group.
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet could help older men preserve their sexual health. Getty Images
Consuming olive oil, the researchers concluded, appeared to protect the men from erectile dysfunction. Eating 13 portions of vegetables, six pieces of fruit, three servings of fish, and two portions of beans a week were also believed to be beneficial.
The foods that characterize the Mediterranean diet could help to keep the aorta—the artery which channels blood from the heart to the body—healthy, stop blood vessels from clogging and maintain blood flow to the groin.
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The men were also found to have relatively low levels of body fat than the average person, which the scientists think could have prevented hormonal imbalances that can affect erections.
Olive oil could, therefore, be as effective as erectile dysfunction drugs, the study authors argued.
The team presented their findings, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich.
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Dr. Christina Chrysohoou, lead author of the study and member of the cardiology department at the University of Athens, told the conference (via The Telegraph): “Viagra does not improve something long-term, it can only give some short effect in order to have sexual capacity.
“This is a drug-free solution that allows men to keep their sexual function.”
She suggested eating olive oil and sticking to the Mediterranean diet was a better long-term solution to keeping active in the bedroom than taking erectile medication.
The team also believe medications for heart failure and blood pressure could negatively affect a man’s ability to get an erection.
Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse at U.K-based charity the British Heart Foundation, said in a statement: "It’s no surprise that the Mediterranean diet–which we know is beneficial to heart and circulatory health–might also benefit blood vessels elsewhere, and help men maintain healthy sexual function.
"Because the blood vessels in the penis are so narrow, being unable to achieve or maintain an erection can be one of the first signs of atherosclerosis–the narrowing of arteries that can lead to a heart attack or stroke."
Spotting medical conditions such as atherosclerosis or diabetes are also key to keeping the heart healthy, she said.
"So if you’re experiencing problems with erectile dysfunction, make sure to book an appointment with your doctor."
This research is the latest to point to the benefits of mimicking the diet traditionally eaten in the Mediterranean region of the world.
Earlier this year, a study published in the journal Circulation found both the Mediterranean diet and the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which encompasses eggs and dairy but excludes meat and fish, could cut the risk of heart disease and stroke.