A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggests that eating too much simple sugar can lead to erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes. The researchers identified a specific simple sugar that interferes with healthy erectile function. Over time, it can lead to permanent penile impairment. The research was published in the August issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These findings may help researchers find new treatments for erectile dysfunction.
The team at Johns Hopkins wanted to find out if high blood sugar in diabetic men could have an effect on an enzyme called endothelial nitric oxide synthase, or eNOS. This molecule is responsible for the achievement and maintenance of erections. Previous studies have shown that erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes is partially caused by eNOS interruption. The researchers suspected that a blood sugar molecule called O-GIcNAc could be the interrupting factor. This simple blood sugar primarily exists in a hyperglycemic environment.
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem among men with diabetes. In fact, more than half of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction to some degree. That rate is approximately three times higher than the erectile dysfunction rate among non-diabetics. Additionally, diabetic men suffer from a different type of erectile dysfunction that doesn’t respond as well to prescription treatments such as Viagra.
An erection begins when a man becomes sexually aroused. Arousal activates an enzyme called neuronal nitric oxide synthase, or nNOS. This molecule stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) in the penis. The release of NO relaxes the muscles in the penis and increases blood flow. The increased blood flow activates eNOS, which leads to sustained NO release and a full erection.
O-GIcNAc interferes with this process by inhibiting eNOS activation. This reduces the release of NO and prevents the muscles in the penis from relaxing. Without this relaxation, a man cannot achieve a sustained erection.
The study examined rats with type 1 diabetes. When compared to the control groups, the diabetic rats had a 30 percent lower erectile response. Full erections were 40 percent smaller and took 70 percent longer to achieve. This study focused on the reduced blood vessel function in diabetics. The results show that vascular function is a critical component of erectile response.
In the future, researchers may be able to find new treatments by targeting this particular mechanism. These findings may also have implications that relate to our overall understanding of penile health. According to the researchers, the findings indicate that eNOS plays an important role in the immediate erectile response and the overall health of penile tissue.
The researchers at Johns Hopkins have been studying erectile dysfunction since the early 1990s. This particular study relates to the fundamental biological and vascular mechanisms of diabetes. The researchers are excited to learn about the physiological relevance of high blood sugar and how it affects erectile health. It may provide additional insights into vascular disease beyond erectile dysfunction.