By Marc Braman, MD, MPH

MB (Marc Braman, MD, MPH):
Our food is our fuel. We want maximum power with minimum smoke, sputtering, and gunk build up. We want the fire to burn well.

In the body, and especially for things entirely dependent on blood vessel function like erections, this boils down largely to “endothelial function”. What is that?

Endothelium is the lining of our blood vessels. Our blood vessels are not just dead plumbing, but are a living breathing organ. They are dynamic and active every moment of our lives. They are part of the heart system. Our top killers of heart attacks and strokes are results of damaged blood vessels — primarily from lifestyle factors.

Those same blood vessel organs involved in heart attacks and strokes, are involved in ED. Anything that damages or impairs the endothelium, can impair erections.

The final common pathway in the blood vessels is something called “nitric oxide”. It is what the endothelial cells produce that operates the plumbing to turn the jello into a rocket ship. This is the same chemistry that is augmented artificially with medications like Viagra.

So, what is good and bad for our blood vessels in food? The same things that work for preventing or reversing heart disease. It is the same system throughout the entire body. Foods that produce inflammation damage the blood vessels. Foods that are anti-inflammatory, with a lot of naturally occurring anti-oxidants, make the blood vessels healthy.

Give me some examples Doc, what does this look like?

This gets interesting. What is ironic is that with lots and lots of advertising for high profit foods, we have been brainwashed to think the foods that make us strong and sexy are actually the ones that create inflammation and are likely to impair our sexual function. And the ones that reduce inflammation and keep the vessels healthy, have been associated with being weak or unsexy.

Red meat, especially high-fat processed red meat like hot dogs, are really bad for your blood vessel health. High anti-oxidant foods like broccoli or kale, make our blood vessels sing. They help the blood vessels make nitric oxide.

There are tons of other details on food and physiology and how it all works for the health or disease of our blood vessels. We would encourage you to learn more about heart or vascular disease and nutrition. It will totally apply to ED as well. The short version is that: unrefined, high-nutrient plant foods will make your blood vessels work well, while animal foods (especially with high fat component) and processed foods will create inflammation, damage your blood vessels, and be a major factor contributing to ED for many.

Save yourself a lot of frustration and money, get your natural Viagra in your food.

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2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

Designing and developing a literature-derived, population-based dietary inflammatory index. Shivappa N, Steck SE, Hurley TG, Hussey JR, Hébert JR. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Aug;17(8):1689-96. doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002115. Epub 2013 Aug 14.

Effect of a Mediterranean-Style Diet on Endothelial Dysfunction and Markers of Vascular Inflammation in the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial. Esposito K, Marfella R, Ciotola M, et al. JAMA. 2004;292(12):1440–1446. doi:10.1001/jama.292.12.1440

The Effects of Diet on Inflammation. Dario Giugliano, Antonio Ceriello, Katherine Esposito. Journal of the American College of Cardiology Aug 2006, 48 (4) 677-685; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2006.03.052

Inflammation in atherosclerosis. Libby P. Nature. 2002 Dec 19-26;420(6917):868-74. Review.

Dietary factors in erectile dysfunction. Esposito K, Giugliano F, De Sio M, Carleo D, Di Palo C, D’Armiento M, Giugliano D. Int J Impot Res. 2006 Jul-Aug;18(4):370-4. Epub 2006 Jan 5.

Marc Braman, MD, MPH

Dr. Braman is board certified in preventive medicine/public health and occupational/environmental medicine. He is founding member, second President and first Executive Director of American College of Lifestyle Medicine and founder and current president of the Lifestyle Medicine Foundation which created He provides lifestyle medicine care in a wide variety of settings as well as initiating efforts to establish professional standards for the field of lifestyle medicine and planning and conducting national professional conferences in lifestyle medicine.

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