Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is the inability of a man to gain or maintain a sufficient erection.

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Erectile dysfunction is experienced at least some of the time by the majority of men in their lifetime. It is estimated that males older than 60 years old have roughly a 50% chance of developing erectile dysfunction, and by 2025, the number with erectile dysfunction is predicted to more than double.1 Symptoms of erectile dysfunction may present as:

  • Inability to get an erection
  • Erection is not firm enough for intercourse
  • Erection doesn’t last very long

There are various causes or risk factors of erectile dysfunction that are important to differentiate as some of them are serious. Here are the most common ones observed:

  • Psychological stress/anxiety/depression
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque on arteries)
  • Diabetes/elevated blood sugar
  • Obesity
  • Side effects of certain medications (diuretics, high blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-epileptic drugs, antihistamines, NSAIDs, and many others)
  • Low testosterone
  • Tobacco use/smoking
  • Low vegetable and fruit intake

Psychological stress or performance anxiety is the most common contributor to impotence in younger males, however, the most serious cause of erectile dysfunction is atherosclerotic plaque and is more common in older males. In this situation, erectile dysfunction is merely the sign of a bigger problem: if you have plaque in one place, you have it elsewhere (your heart, for example), and the risk of heart attack and stroke is much higher. Diabetes and obesity can also lead to lower testosterone, which can lead to impotence as well as other serious problems.

Following a Nutritarian lifestyle can address most of the risk factors associated with erectile dysfunction, especially because a Nutritarian diet can reverse atherosclerosis and re-establish normal blood flow. Also, if medications are contributing to erectile dysfunction, improving your health via a Nutritarian lifestyle will likely allow you to reduce or eliminate many types of medications (under the direction of your doctor).

  1. McKinlay JB. The worldwide prevalence and epidemiology of erectile dysfunction. Int J Impot Res 2000, 12 Suppl 4:S6-S11.

Action Plan


  • A Nutritarian eating style includes the right balance of high nutrient foods essential for reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, which are major contributors of erectile dysfunction in males.
  • In order to reverse any atherosclerotic plaque in a reasonable time frame (months to a few years), you may need to follow an even more strict Nutritarian diet nearly free of animal products and achieve an ideal weight. Improvement in erectile dysfunction can be a part of reversing this overall health condition.


Because stress, anxiety, and depression are major contributors to erectile dysfunction in many men, a strategy for stress-reduction should be part of the game-plan. Goals to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety can vary from person to person but may include:

  • Light therapy
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation
  • Exercise
  • Positive social interactions

Performance anxiety, which occurs primarily in younger men, is usually easily solved with counseling and the cooperation of an understanding partner.

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Ask The Doctor

The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)


Will a Nutritarian diet help all cases of erectile dysfunction?


Strict adherence to a Nutritarian diet will help circulatory-related erectile dysfunction. The same diet-style that effectively improves circulation throughout the body improves erectile dysfunction. The reversal and removal of atherosclerotic plaque is remarkable with this program, however, there are other causes of erectile dysfunction, mainly emotional and performance anxiety that are not helped by dietary intervention. They are better treated with counseling.