Excess weight, particularly if it is concentrated in the abdomen (the spare tire), interferes with erectile function in several ways. The most important effect of excess weight is that it causes resistance of the body’s tissues to insulin. Insulin is a natural stimulator of NO (Nitric Oxide), the major body chemical that allows healthy erections. The insulin resistance also leads to higher sugar levels, and sugar decreases NO production. Another way that excess weight can lead to ED is that more circulating fat also decreases NO production by the blood vessels. And, the fat cells in the spare tire are surrounded by a huge number of blood vessels that steal blood away from important activities like filling a penis with blood to cause a normal erection. Overweight individuals eat more food and the burning of that extra fuel releases more free-oxygen radicals (toxic body chemicals) that interfere with NO production and increase its breakdown. It is no wonder that obese men, especially those with diabetes and lack of exercise, have more difficulty with ED.
What Does Losing Weight Do for ED?
The good news is that many men who lose weight and increase physical activity will experience an improvement in erectile function. A research study of non-diabetic obese men showed that weight loss and exercise improved erectile function in a third of the men. More detail about how extra weight can lead to ED, and suggestions on how to lose weight and exercise more, is available in the book, Survival of the FIRMEST. Simple changes in diet and daily activity can lead to a 30-50 pound weight loss in just one year. Suggestions for beginning and continuing a successful weight loss program are in the book too.