Can alcohol consumption influence erectile disfunction in men? The answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can make it hard to get or keep an erection in that moment. But a recent meta-analysis finds that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of erectile disfunction.1
What is already known? A previous meta-analysis found a lower risk of erectile disfunction for light-to moderate drinkers compared to non-drinkers.2
What does this study add? This study is an update of the previous meta-analysis and includes 46 studies, of which most are of a cross-sectional design. In total, almost 217,000 participants are included.
Lower risk with moderate consumption
Compared to current non- or occasional drinkers, participants that drink moderately – less than 14 drinks a week – have an 18% lower risk of erectile disfunction.
The researchers do not study the underlying mechanism but describe several possible mechanisms that could explain this association, such as the fact that alcohol has a dual effect of disinhibition and relaxion when consumed in moderation. But also the long-term benefits of alcohol on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and other variables that increase the availability and activity of nitric oxide (which acts as a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, causing the vessels to widen).
High alcohol consumption
The meta-analysis finds no increased risk for high alcohol consumption, which is defined as more than 14 drinks a week. However, they do mention that alcohol abuse can have lasting effects on the liver, leading to increased levels of estrogen and low levels of testosterone, both of which can contribute to erectile disfunction.
Erectile dysfunction or impotence is the inability to attain and/or maintain a satisfactory erection for sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction is the most frequently diagnosed sexual dysfunction in older men. It has been estimated that worldwide the prevalence will be 322 million cases by the year 2025.1 Age is related to an increase in both prevalence and severity of erectile dysfunction. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery diseases.1,2
- Many studies included
- Observation research – cannot prove causality
- Most studies have a cross-sectional design
- Ex-drinkers included in the reference group
- High heterogeneity
- Li, S., Song, J. M., Zhang, K., & Zhang, C. L. (2021). A Meta-Analysis of Erectile Dysfunction and Alcohol Consumption. Urologia internationalis, 1-17.
- Wang, X. – M., Bai, Y. – J., Yang, Y. – B., Li, J. – H., Tang, Y., and Han, P. Alcohol intake and risk of erectile dysfunction: a dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. International Journal of Impotence Research, vol. 30, pp. 342-351, 2018.