The Surprising Connection between Caffeine and Erection Health
Research has shown that men who consume moderate amounts of caffeine have a lower risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). While there’s such a thing as too much caffeine, moderate amounts do not appear to adversely affect overall health.
If you’ve been having some difficulty lately in getting and keeping an erection, you might want to have an extra cup or two of coffee each day to see if that doesn’t help to overcome your problem.
Researchers at Houston’s University of Texas Health Science Center recently published the results of a study showing that men who drink the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee daily are less likely to develop erection problems.
Caffeine and Impotence Risk
Specifically, the researchers found that men who consumed 85 to 170 milligrams of caffeine a day were 42 percent less likely to have erection problems than those who drank little or no caffeine. Men whose daily intake of caffeine ranged from 171 to 304 milligrams were 39 percent less likely to have symptoms of impotence. For comparison purposes, a tall (12 ounces) brewed coffee from Starbucks contains roughly 260 milligrams of caffeine.
The study, published in the April 28, 2015, issue of ¨PLOS One,¨ examines the relationship between varying levels of caffeine consumption and the likelihood of erection problems. For their study, UTHealth researchers analyzed data from 3,724 male respondents to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, conducted between 2001 and 2004. The research team looked at survey responses from men who were at least 20 years old.
A patient’s history of erection problems was based solely on the patient’s response to the following NHANES question: ¨Many men experience problems with sexual intercourse. How would you describe your ability to get and keep an erection adequate for satisfactory intercourse? Would you say that you are . . . always or almost always able, usually able, sometimes able, or never able?¨
Determining Level of Impotence
Men who selected either ¨sometimes able¨ or ¨never able¨ as their response to the question were considered by the researchers to have at least some degree of impotence, while those who replied ¨always able,¨ ¨almost always able¨ or ¨usually able¨ were categorized as free of impotence.
Researchers quantified caffeine and other dietary consumption data based on NHANES respondents’ recall of all food and beverages consumed in the 24-hour period immediately preceding the survey. Based on respondents’ answers to various questions about caffeine intake, study participants were placed into one of five quintiles. The first included men who consumed 0 to 7 milligrams of caffeine daily, while the second covered those with a daily intake of 8 to 84 milligrams. The third quintile included those consuming a daily average of 85 to 170 milligrams of caffeine, the fourth covered those with a daily intake of 171 to 303 milligrams, and the final quintile encompassed men whose daily caffeine intake ranged from 304 to 700 milligrams.
Other Caffeine Sources
Although coffee is probably the leading source of caffeine for most men, varying degrees of caffeine can be found in other beverages and foods. MayoClinic.com notes that precise measurements of caffeine content in coffee and tea can vary from day to day ¨because of various factors, such as roasting and grinding as well as brewing time. The caffeine content of tea also is affected by how long it’s brewed.¨
That said, here are MayoClinic.com’s estimates of caffeine content in typical servings of popular beverages: An 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee delivers between 95 and 200 milligrams of caffeine; opt instead for an 8-ounce cup of single-serve coffee (think Keurig machine) and you’ll get somewhere between 75 and 150 milligrams of caffeine.
Tea’s caffeine content depends on the type of tea you prefer. An 8-ounce cup of brewed black tea has anywhere from 14 to 70 milligrams of caffeine, while a similar-size serving of green tea ranges from 24 to 45 milligram in caffeine content. An 8-ounce glass of iced tea generally delivers less than either the black or green used to make it because it is watered down.
Caffeine in Soft Drinks
Several soft drinks contain caffeine, but ounce for ounce they are generally much lower in caffeine content than coffee or tea. A 12-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola has 23-35 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 32 to 32 for a similar-size serving of Pepsi-Cola. Among popular soft drinks, Mountain Dew has perhaps the highest caffeine content with 42 to 55 milligrams per 12-ounce bottle.
Another source of caffeine growing in popularity among younger men is the so-called energy drink. An 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull has 75 to 80 milligrams of caffeine, while a 2-ounce shot of 5-Hour Energy delivers 200 to 207 milligrams of caffeine.
If you’d prefer to eat your caffeine, MayoClinic.com notes that a cup of semisweet chocolate chips has 104 milligrams of caffeine, while 28 pieces of dark chocolate-coated coffee beans have a whopping 336 milligrams of caffeine.
Mechanism of Action
No matter how you choose to consume your caffeine, one burning question remains: How does it help to lower the risk of erection problems?
Although the primary purpose of their study was not to determine how caffeine helps to support erectile function, the UTHealth researchers theorize that it works in much the same way as the popular impotence medications on the market. That is to say that the caffeine promotes stronger blood flow to the penis, thus making it easier for men who regularly consume significant amounts of caffeine to get and keep an erection suitable for sexual intercourse.
In November 2013, evidence of caffeine’s effect on blood vessels, particularly smaller blood vessels, was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session 2013. Although the study in question was relatively small, it showed that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee noticeably improved blood flow in a finger, ¨which is a measure of how well the inner lining of the body’s smaller blood vessels work,¨ according to the AHA.
Boosts Short-Term Blood Flow
In fact, the study presented at AHA’s Scientific Session 2013 demonstrated that test subjects experienced a 30 percent increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period following the consumption of a cup of caffeinated coffee.
Addressing the likely mechanism involved in caffeine’s effects on erectile function, UTHealth researchers suggest that ¨caffeine triggers a series of pharmacological effects that lead to the relaxation of the penile helicine arteries, and the cavernous smooth muscle that lines cavernosal spaces, thus increasing penile blood flow.”
In laymen’s terms, this means that men who regularly consume moderate to high levels of caffeine enjoy increased blood flow to the penis, which facilitates the erectile process.
Don’t Overdo It
As the research team’s findings suggest, a daily intake of more than 300 milligrams of caffeine isn’t likely to significantly improve one’s chances of getting and keeping an erection. Based on the results of their study, optimal daily caffeine intake, at least for the purposes of promoting erectile function, seems to fall somewhere between 85 and 170 milligrams, which reduces the risk of impotence by 42 percent.
Men who consumed the next higher level of caffeine — 171 to 303 milligrams daily — reduced their risk of erection problems by 39 percent, a 3 percent smaller reduction than achieved at optimal caffeine consumption. On top of that, too much caffeine can have some adverse effects, especially for those who are particularly sensitive to the substance. Such side effects include insomnia, irritability, muscle tremors, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, and stomach upset.
David S. Lopez, DrPH, one of the study’s co-authors, noted that the benefits of caffeine consumption on erectile function were also enjoyed by men with high blood pressure and obesity. However, those benefits did not extend to men with diabetes, which carries with it a set of unique vascular problems. ¨Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for [erection problems], so this was not surprising,¨ commented Lopez.
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Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.