Can belly fat cause ED? Find out how belly fat affects your erectile function and learn how you can treat ED. Also learn if BMI and ED are connected.
With erectile dysfunction (ED) affecting nearly 30 million men in the US alone, it’s a problem that’s unfortunately all too common for men of all ages.
Now, with obesity rates climbing even higher, many men are left asking, “can belly fat cause erectile dysfunction?”
In general, being overweight or obese can lead to an increased risk of ED. Belly fat and erectile dysfunction are often linked together, and numerous scientific studies have found the link to be stronger than many would believe.
However, there are also many other causes of ED aside from belly fat, and it’s important to have the full picture when looking for treatment options.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection that's sufficient for sexual performance.
Yes, having belly fat can disrupt different systems of the body that are responsible for causing an erection to occur.
Research has shown that losing weight helped men to reverse their erectile dysfunction.
This guide will help you understand the relationship between excess fat and ED, along with all of the other factors that put men at risk.
Plus, we’ll go over proven methods to help reduce the risk of ED along with how you can treat it today.
Before diving deeper into the causes of ED, it’s important to fully understand what erection dysfunction is and the problems it can cause.
A healthy erection is caused by an increase in blood flow into the penis, which is then trapped in place by a series of valves to keep the penis hard, elongated, and ready for intercourse.
A normal erection is often caused by sexual arousal, which can come from mental or physical stimulation. It can also be a natural occurrence simply due to increased blood flow while a man is awake or asleep.
With erectile dysfunction, the penis is either unable to become erect, or the erection is significantly weaker or shorter-lasting than desired.
Some common symptoms of ED include:
Erectile dysfunction is often caused by physical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, or circulatory problems. It can also be caused by psychological factors as well.
Sexual anxieties, relationship problems, or even just stress can make ED more likely for some men.
Finding the root cause of ED is important, because the treatment options and preventive measures can vary wildly depending on the cause.
However, treating erectile dysfunction is very important, because beyond sexual dissatisfaction, it can cause a number of psychological and personal problems including:
Luckily, there are many ED treatment options available that we’ll cover shortly.
Research has shown that men abdominal obesity have a higher incidence rate of ED. Belly fat and ED have a complicated relationship, which we’ll explore in more detail to help you understand how your waist size and erectile dysfunction are related.
Getting an erection is an intricate process within the body, and it requires multiple bodily systems to work in sync with one another for the erection to be healthy.
This includes your:
In many cases, having excessive belly fat can disrupt one or all of these vital systems.
According to Dr. Wang Lushun of Arete Ortho, visceral fat can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. These conditions result in damaged blood vessels, including those needed for erections.
Dr. Lushun also noted that belly fat can lead to low testosterone, or Low T, which can potentially impact a man’s sexual function. It's just one of the reasons why obesity has been recognized as a leading factor in erectile dysfunction for men.
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Additionally, Dr. Lushun mentions that, “Belly fat may cause inflammation in the body, which can also affect blood flow, making it a contributing factor to ED.”
While having belly fat does not necessarily make one obese, it is more often than not a sign of being overweight. If not controlled, either through diet, exercise, medication, or other means, it can lead to more serious health problems beyond ED.
As shown by the study above, being overweight can be a major risk factor for ED and other sexual dysfunctions in men.
However, other studies have also shown that waist size and erectile dysfunction are even more closely linked than weight alone.
In a 2016 study, it was found that waist circumference correlated with more cases of ED and other sexual dysfunctions in men. What this means is that the larger a man's waist size is, the more likely they are to have erectile dysfunction regardless of their overall weight.
In the study, they followed 261 men over several years to gauge their sexual health and quality of life index. What they found was that waist circumference was a stronger predictor of erectile dysfunction than the body mass index, or BMI.
The study also found that a larger belly correlated with increased rates of Low T, which can be another cause of erectile dysfunction.
With Low T, men may experience problems such as:
Along with Low T, excessive belly fat may also lead to circulatory problems which can greatly influence the onset of erectile dysfunction.
A high BMI, or body mass index, can be a major risk factor for the development of erectile dysfunction.
Some of the general health risks of a high BMI include:
Along with these general health effects, a high BMI can also lead to sleep disturbances and reduced physical activity, both of which may affect hormones, normal bodily functions, and sexual health.
Diabetes is also a common complication from a high BMI, and this disease can strongly hinder blood flow throughout the body. Over time, men with diabetes have a much higher chance of developing erectile dysfunction than those without it.
Having excessive belly fat can put a lot of strain on the surrounding organs along with your overall cardiovascular system.
Studies have shown a dramatic increase in heart disease for men with excessive belly fat. Since heart disease negatively affects the entire cardiovascular system and hinders proper flow, it can lead to erectile dysfunction among other serious and potentially fatal complications.
So can weight gain cause erectile dysfunction? Unfortunately, it can, and even more so if the weight gain leads to chronic issues like heart disease or related afflictions.
Losing weight can not only help to prevent erectile dysfunction and reduce the occurrence of other ED risk factors.
In a two-year study following 110 men, researchers found that men who steadily lost weight were able to fully reverse their erectile dysfunction.
Plus, the men also reduced their overall risk for other serious conditions, including:
Most significantly, they found that 31% of men who lost weight regained their full erectile functioning. In comparison, the sedentary control group only had 5% of men reverse their ED.
The men who reduced their weight lost an average of 30lbs through lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a healthier diet. This shows that even a moderate amount of weight loss can have a very positive effect on erectile functioning.
Losing belly fat can improve blood flow by reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood pressure.
The following conditions have been to reduce or severely impact flood flow:
In one large study, it was found that nearly 77% of overweight people have some form of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Along with this, there are also increased rates of insulin resistance among obese patients, which is a major indicator for the development of diabetes along with hormonal disruptions.
Even if insulin resistance doesn't develop into diabetes, it can still reduce the overall amount of nitric oxide within the body.
Nitric oxide is a crucial compound that aids in hormone regulation and helps to dilate the blood vessels to encourage healthy blood flow.
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Some potential side effects of low nitric oxide production include:
However, this same study also confirmed that losing weight can lead to dramatic improvements in all of these conditions.
By losing even a moderate amount of weight, patients in the study were able to improve their insulin resistance, increase nitric oxide production throughout the body, and significantly lower their blood pressure.
Plus, those who lost weight also had significantly lower inflammation than those who maintained or gained weight throughout the study.
While obesity and belly fat are major contributors to ED, there are also many other conditions that can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Some of these common ED causes include:
There are a number of physical causes of ED aside from belly fat, such as:
While some of these conditions, like hypertension or insulin resistance, can be improved upon significantly by losing weight, other conditions may require separate treatments in order to improve.
Arousal is both a mental and physical response, and there are many psychological causes for ED that men should consider.
Some common psychological reasons for ED include:
In some cases, having one or more of these psychological conditions can make getting aroused more difficult.
Along with the negative mental effects, these psychological conditions can also have negative physical effects.
Having constant stress or anger can raise one’s blood pressure, which as we’ve mentioned previously, can potentially cause ED.
There are many medical treatments and medications that can cause ED, including, but not limited to:
If you experience erectile dysfunction while taking a certain medication, make sure to mention it to your doctor so they can work with you to find a solution.
In some cases, similar medications or a different dosage may help to limit unwanted side effects while still treating the original condition.
While losing weight is a crucial step in treating erectile dysfunction, there are other ways to help fight ED during the weight loss process.
Some examples include:
There are a number of negative lifestyle choices that can cause ED, such as:
Making healthier lifestyle choices can help to greatly reduce the risk of ED, and even reverse it in some situations.
Even subtle changes, like taking small walks around the neighborhood or eating more leafy greens, can compound over time into greater lifestyle changes to your health.
Expert Insight: Did you know certain foods can cause erectile dysfunction? Find out which ones to avoid to maintain peak erection health.
There are a number of ED medications available that can help to increase blood flow in the penis, making for stronger and longer-lasting erections.
Many of these medications are classified as PDE5 inhibitors, and are generally regarded by the FDA as safe and effective for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Some of the most common ED medications include:
All of these medications will likely require a prescription, so make sure to talk with your doctor to see if they are safe and beneficial for treating your condition.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to help reduce symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Less anxiety and depression may help make it easier for men to be sufficiently aroused and achieve an erection.
Some supplements may help to increase nitric oxide production, which can encourage more blood flow into the penis.
However, not all supplements are FDA regulated, so it’s important to only take those with well-sourced ingredients that have scientific research backing their safety and efficacy.
Some high-quality supplements, like VitaFLUX Nitric Oxide Booster, utilize natural and highly researched ingredients that may help to promote nitric oxide production to provide:
Remember to always talk with your doctor before starting any supplementation.
So can being overweight cause erectile dysfunction? As studies have shown, obesity and ED are often linked together, and having a larger waist size is especially risky.
Despite the high prevalence of ED in obese men, losing weight can greatly help to reverse the trend while also providing numerous overall health benefits.
Since losing weight is often a slow process, it’s important to work with your doctor during your journey. Your doctor can advise you on how to best lose weight given your situation, and they can also recommend other ED treatments.
Practicing a healthier lifestyle is an effective way to improve erectile function and overall sexual health.
Dr LS Wang is an internationally published, award-winning, double-fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon with more than 18 years of clinical experience. Throughout the course of his career, he has pioneered advanced minimally invasive techniques for robotic knee and hip surgery that result in enhanced recoveries. He is currently the Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Medical Director of Arete Orthopaedic Clinic.
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