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Canadian Med Center

Obesity and Erectile Dysfunction

Friday 12 April 2024
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

II. How Erections Happen

III. How Obesity Can Lead To Erectile Dysfunction

IV. How to Reduce the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction with Obesity

i. Lifestyle Changes

ii. ED Medications

V. Conclusion

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common medical condition that affects the ability to achieve or sustain an erection during sexual activity. [1] According to studies, over 50% of men over 50 years old experience some degree of ED. [2]

While the causes of ED are complex and varied, one of the leading contributors is obesity. [3] Understanding the relationship between obesity and ED is important for both prevention and management.

In this article, we will explore what ED is, how erections work, the connection between obesity and ED, and some treatment options available.

What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

While occasional difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection can happen to any man, ED is diagnosed when these problems become persistent. The key symptoms of ED include:

  • Being unable to get an erection sometimes but not consistently
  • Achieving only brief erections
  • Being completely unable to get an erection [2]

ED can stem from a range of physical and emotional factors, such as:

  • Stress
  • Physical injury
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Some medications
  • Alcohol abuse
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity [2]

How Erections Happen

To understand how obesity can contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED), it’s important to know how an erection normally occurs.

An erection happens when the blood vessels leading to the penis expand, allowing it to fill with blood. This process depends on the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessels, releasing nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes the smooth muscles in the penis to relax, allowing blood to flow in. [4]

However, any damage to the blood vessels can potentially disrupt this process, resulting in ED. Therefore, the same factors that contribute to heart disease and stroke can also contribute to ED. [4]

How Obesity Can Lead To Erectile Dysfunction

doctor applying glucose monitor on male patient

Erectile dysfunction is a complex health issue with many possible underlying causes. One contributing factor for some men is excess weight and obesity. Carrying too much weight can negatively impact erectile function in several ways:

  • Obesity can damage blood vessels over time. Erections require adequate blood flow into the penis. When blood vessels are damaged by obesity, they cannot properly dilate to increase blood flow, making it difficult to achieve and sustain an erection.
  • Obesity is linked to lower testosterone levels, which are important for libido and erectile function. Belly fat, in particular, can convert testosterone into estrogen, disrupting the hormonal balance in the body. With less testosterone and higher estrogen, erectile dysfunction is more likely. [4]

Obesity also puts men at higher risk for other health issues that can contribute to ED like:

As these obesity-related conditions worsen over time, especially with age, erectile function tends to decrease. Research shows that for every decade of life, the risk of ED increases by about 10 percent. [5]

How to Reduce the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction with Obesity

obese man measures waist circumference

Losing excess weight through improved diet and exercise can have significant benefits for erectile function and overall health. Even modest weight loss goals and gradual changes can make a big difference.

Research shows that weight loss alone can help restore erectile function in over 30% of overweight men. In one study, men who lost an average of just 33 pounds over two years saw noticeable improvements in their erectile function. [6]

While losing weight may seem challenging, following a supervised diet and exercise plan can help you achieve realistic goals and experience meaningful health benefits.

Lifestyle Changes

Weight loss can be a challenging journey, but studies show it's worth the effort to improve sexual function. Losing weight requires commitment and lifestyle changes, but the rewards are real.

  • Diet: When it comes to eating, find a balanced and sustainable diet that fits your lifestyle. Start with small changes, like adding more vegetables to your meals or drinking an extra glass of water each day. Build on those changes over time.
  • Physical exercise: Increasing physical activity has proven to have a positive impact on sexual response. Engaging in regular physical exercise not only aids in weight loss but also improves overall sexual function.
  • Talk to your doctor: While discussing issues related to erectile dysfunction may feel uncomfortable, it is essential to speak openly with your healthcare provider. They are there to help and support you. It's crucial to understand that ED can sometimes be a symptom of more serious underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, or coronary artery disease. [3]

ED Medications

While treating any underlying conditions contributing to erectile dysfunction (ED) is critical for your health and well-being, combining this approach with medications specifically for ED may provide the best results.

There are two popular prescription medications for ED:

It is important to understand that these medications do not directly cause an erection. Rather, they assist in maintaining an erection for a longer period. [3]

Moreover, it's important to understand that these medications do not treat the root cause of ED. They are simply tools to help improve your symptoms. You still need to address any underlying health issues that are contributing to your ED. [3]


Erectile dysfunction is a complex condition with numerous contributing factors. For those who are obese, the likelihood of experiencing ED is considerably higher, as obesity is linked to heart disease, hormone imbalances, and mental health issues, all of which influence sexual function.

While obesity presents added challenges, staying informed about the risks of obesity is a good first step to weight management. Visit our dedicated obesity blog for additional topics.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.