While small amounts of alcohol help bolster sexual confidence and reduce anxiety, it seems too much of the stuff has the opposite effect, leading to erectile dysfunction.
Or as Shakespeare said (paraphrased slightly): it “boosts the desire but removes the ability” – in other words, a real two-edged sword!
So. What’s the truth behind alcohol and erectile dysfunction? What effects, positive and negative, does alcohol have on sexual performance and erectile function?
The French Paradox & ED
It’s long been held that moderate drinking is good for health. In fact the Bible, believe it or not, references the medicinal value of alcohol 191 times. Red wine in particular has been associated with significant advantages for cardiovascular health. And of course anything that is good for the heart is usually also good for erectile function, as erections rely on good blood flow.
Some experts have argued that this is the secret behind the so-called ‘French Paradox’: low rates of heart problems despite a diet containing significant levels of animal fats.
Research has helped clarify the situation a little. A recent Harvard study found that moderate drinkers not only experienced lower mortality rates, but they also experienced significantly less erectile dysfunction than both heavy drinkers and abstainers.
Which raises the obvious question:
What exactly is ‘moderate’ drinking?
‘Moderate’ Drinking & ED
The most recent consensus on what constitutes a ‘moderate’ level of drinking – the sort that actually benefits sexual performance – is about one to two standard drinks per day for men, and one standard drink per day for women.
However, experts are now suggesting that pattern may be just as important as quantity.
The Harvard study mentioned above supports this notion, with the finding that men who consumed 2 to 6 drinks per week had the best health results, but men who consumed more than 2 per day on average had the worst.
So don’t think you can just condense your weekly allocation into one evening and you’ll be right! Instead, limit it to one or two drinks per night, wherever possible.
There are plenty of good reasons for this. Long term heavy drinking has an impact on nervous system performance, reducing the efficacy of impulses involved with erectile function, as well as levels of hormones such as testosterone, an essential ingredient in men’s sexual function and drive.
Australian Research on Alcohol & ED
New Australian research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine has shed further light on the question of how moderate drinking affects erectile dysfunction. In this study, scientists at the Keogh Institute for Medical Research, based in Western Australia, observed the effects of alcohol on erectile dysfunction in a group of over 1500 Aussie men.
The results again supported the claim that moderate drinkers came out on top in bed, with men in this group actually experiencing 30% less sexual problems than men who totally abstained from alcohol.
And interestingly this study defined ‘moderate’ drinking as up to four drinks a day five days a week.
Men who had previously been heavy drinkers, and then stopped completely, found they experienced a temporary increase in sexual problems. Further case studies have again shown that long term alcohol abuse can cause impotence in men even once they’ve sobered up.
Poor sexual performance was registered by heavy drinkers, who decided to stop drinking, smokers and those who suffer from heart disease.
In their study researchers say: "Although alcohol may increase sexual desire through disinhibition, the slang term "brewer's droop" captures its reputation as a risk factor for decreased sexual performance".
They add that the recent findings suggest a positive association between low-risk alcohol drinking and fewer problems with erectile dysfunction.
Heavy Alcohol Abuse and ED
While moderate alcohol use improved sexual performance, more than half of the men who are heavy drinkers suffer from erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, or premature ejaculation, international research shows.
Heavy alcohol consumption damages blood vessel and nerves, causes liver damage and lowers testosterone levels.
It also affects blood flow to the penis directly, because drinking too much affects smooth muscle cells in the penile wall, preventing the penile blood vessels from closing off and so holding the erection.
To Drink or Not To Drink?
Overall, it seems there’s a strong, positive association between low-risk moderate drinking and erectile function.
However it doesn’t necessarily follow that if you’re a low to no drinker upping your intake will improve your sex life!
If you find that excessive drinking is however resulting in alcohol-caused male impotence, the best solution is to seek out help and support with curbing your intake.
Go ahead. You won’t regret the decision!