Can obesity result in erectile dysfunction?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Do you ever notice how perceptive little kids are? Sometimes it can be tough, though, when the “why” questions start. Why does Daddy wear mismatched socks? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t people get along? Scientists also struggle with the “whys” of life, too. For example, we’ve known for centuries that being obese can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED), but not why, until recently. Lucky for us, this “why” might have good answers. Research shows that the heavier men are, the lower their testosterone levels. Testosterone (a male hormone) is essential to getting and maintaining an erection. Furthermore, heavier men are more likely to have impaired blood flow to their penis, the major cause of ED. If you can’t get blood flowing down there, how do you think it will get hard?

So here’s what you can do: Talk to your doctor, get your testosterone checked, try to lose a few pounds, and make sure your other health problems (like high blood pressure or diabetes) are managed. Soon you’ll be dreading getting out of bed instead of into it.
Obesity can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in several ways. First, it can have psychological effects. If men who are overweight feel unattractive, they may have a lower sex drive. Similarly their sexual energy may be affected by anxiety over their obesity. Second, obesity increases the risk of diabetes, which in turn can damage nerves involved in achieving an erection.

Obesity also may cause lower testosterone levels, which can lead to erectile dysfunction. Obesity is a damaging condition and a leading cause of premature death. Talk to your doctor about ways to control your weight if you are struggling with obesity.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Picture two men, both about five feet, 10 inches tall. One weighs a trim 160 pounds. The other has a sagging waistline and weighs 200 pounds. Who do you think is more at risk for erectile dysfunction?

No surprise answer here: The heavier guy is 30% more likely to have problems getting and sustaining erections, according to a Harvard study. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases that are closely linked to erectile dysfunction. However, it's also clear that obese men tend to have low levels of testosterone, a hormone that increases sexual desire and promotes erections.

It's probably no coincidence that the Harvard study also found that men who don't exercise and watch a lot of TV have an increased risk for erectile dysfunction too. Want to heat up your love life? For a good start, drop the remote, get off the sofa, and hit the gym

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.