Friday Facts: ED = Early Death (and why you may wish to stock up on pistachios)

The below is from Dr. Michael Greger’s excellent book, “How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease“.  A lot of this information was new to me, and I thought I would share it. 

Fun fact: The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but 30% of the world’s impotence.

The reason may be due to our artery-clogging diet. Erectile dysfunction and our number-one killer, coronary artery disease, are actually two manifestations of the same disease— inflamed, clogged, and crippled arteries— regardless of which organs are affected. Not to worry, though, because Americans have red, white, and blue pills like Viagra … right? The problem is that these pills just cover up the symptoms of vascular disease and don’t do anything for the underlying pathology.

Atherosclerosis is considered a systemic disorder that uniformly affects all major blood vessels in the body. Hardening of the arteries can lead to softening of the penis, since stiffened arteries can’t relax open and let the blood flow. Thus, erectile dysfunction may just be the flaccid tip of the iceberg in terms of a systemic disorder. For two-thirds of men showing up at emergency rooms with crushing chest pain, their penises had been trying to warn them for years that something was wrong with their circulation.

Why does atherosclerosis tend to hit the penis first? The arteries in the penis are half the size of the “widow-maker” coronary artery in the heart. Therefore, the amount of plaque you wouldn’t even feel in the heart could clog half the penile artery, causing symptomatic restriction in blood flow.


In medical school, we were taught the forty-over-forty rule: 40 percent of men over age forty have erectile dysfunction. Men with erection difficulties in their forties have a fiftyfold increased risk of having a cardiac event (like sudden death).


The reason even young men should care about their cholesterol levels is because they predict erectile dysfunction later in life, which in turn predicts heart attacks, strokes, and a shortened life span. As one medical journal put it, the take-home message is that “ED = Early Death.”

What does this have to do with nuts? A clinical study found that men who ate three to four handfuls of pistachios a day for three weeks experienced a significant improvement in blood flow through the penis, accompanied by significantly firmer erections. The researchers concluded that three weeks of pistachios “resulted in a significant improvement in erectile function … without any side effects.”

This is not just a male issue. Women with higher cholesterol levels report significantly lower arousal, orgasm, lubrication, and sexual satisfaction.

To read the pistachio study itself:

Some more sobering information from “How Not To Die” about heart disease (emphasis is mine):

When you think about heart disease, you may think of friends or loved ones who suffered for years with chest pain and shortness of breath before they finally succumbed. However, for the majority of Americans who die suddenly from heart disease, the very first symptom may be their last. 1 It’s called “sudden cardiac death.” This is when death occurs within an hour of symptom onset. In other words, you may not even realize you’re at risk until it’s too late. You could be feeling perfectly fine one moment, and then an hour later, you’re gone forever. That’s why it’s critical to prevent heart disease in the first place, before you even necessarily know you have it.

In other words — even if you have no symptoms of heart disease there is still great value in protecting yourself as much as possible from this killer disease.

Nuts in general are great for promoting heart health, but I wanted to know why pistachios were being singled out for this issue. The best article I could find was:

If you click through you will find tons of fascinating pistachio information, but here is the relevant quote:

One reason pistachio nuts likely help ED and work as a natural remedy for impotence is the fact that they’re relatively high in the nonessential amino acid arginine, which appears to maintain flexible arteries and enhance blood flow by boosting nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes blood vessels.

There you have it!




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