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An Italian Recipe for Men

How losing weight can gain you a better love life
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WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Just about everyone agrees that Italy is one of the most romantic countries in the world. And now there's news from Italy that could help put a twinkle in your eyes, no matter where you live.

Italian scientists have discovered a surprising solution that may help the millions of men who suffer from erectile dysfunction: weight loss.

Since the introduction of Viagra and similar drugs, there's been increased interest in the study and treatment of erectile dysfunction (which basically means problems with getting and keeping an erection). According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, roughly 52% of men aged 40-70 suffer some degree of erectile dysfunction, or ED.

The Italian study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004, involved 110 obese men aged 35-55 with ED. The researchers put them on a program of healthy eating and exercise to help them lose 10% or more of their body weight.

After two years, the study group had lost an average of 33 pounds and were more physically active -- and about one-third of them had seen a significant improvement in sexual function.

Earlier studies had shown that men who are at normal weight and are physically active are at lower risk for ED. But the Italian study was one of the first looking at treatments for the condition beyond surgery and drugs.

Its findings led Christopher Saigal, MD, to write an editorial in the same issue of the journal encouraging doctors to consider weight loss and exercise as the initial treatment for obese patients with ED.

The Weight Connection

An estimated four out of five men with ED have BMIs (body mass indexes) greater than 25. According to the researchers, overweight men with BMIs of 28.7 (that's about 195 pounds for a 5'9" male) have a 30% greater risk for developing ED than normal-weight men.

In addition to the risk of sexual dysfunction, being overweight increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.

Further more, high blood pressure, diabetes or pre-diabetes, heavy alcohol consumption, and blood-pressure drugs all put a man at higher risk for ED. And weight loss can help you reduce or eliminate nearly all of these risk factors, according to Atlanta-based urologist David Perlow, MD.

"It is well-accepted that obesity is a co-factor in atherosclerotic disease that can impede blood flow," says Perlow. "Losing weight can improve blood flow not only to the heart but also to other organs, including the penis."

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