Life Extension Magazine October 2013
The Truth About Male and Female Sexual Dysfunction
By Michael Downey
No one ever counted themselves lucky to have erectile dysfunction—but maybe they should. Because having erectile dysfunction might just save your life.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is one of the earliest symptoms of coronary artery disease—showing up as a warning sign up to three years before a heart attack or stroke.1
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary artery disease kills more than 385,000 people every year.2 And one shocking study reported that men with erectile dysfunction have 8-times the risk of heart failure over about a 2.5 year follow-up period than men without this problem!3
In addition to heart failure, sexual dysfunction can also indicate other serious, underlying disease factors—including neurological damage, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more.4-13
Conventional drug options generally treat the symptoms of sexual dysfunction—without improving the underlying causes that can lead to serious disease.14,15
The good news is that there are proven and safe natural therapies that reverse the root causes of sexual dysfunction for both men and women—reducing your risk of heart disease and increasing your life span in the process.
Sexual Dysfunction Is Not a Disease
If you judge by drug advertisements, you’d never guess that male sexual dysfunction is frequently the result of underlying health issues. These include vascular problems, prostatic disease, neurological damage, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and even medication side effects.3,6,8-13
Similarly—although studies of sexual dysfunction in women have lagged behind those in men16—female sexual dysfunction has also been found to be a common result of diabetes, urinary incontinence, cancer, medical or surgical treatments, and other biological factors.5,7,13,17
One sexual symptom commonly associated with aging—decreased libido—is now clearly tied with poor physical health in males and females—and not necessarily with age itself.16,18,19
Many people don’t seek treatment for sexual dysfunction.20 And those who do seek treatment are often prescribed drug treatments for specific sexual symptoms—without any investigation into potential underlying cofactors.
The main reason for this is that, increasingly, sexual complaints are labeled as drug-treatable “diseases” in themselves—discouraging mainstream doctors from pursuing any deeper investigation into the patient’s health.15
Why Mainstream Solutions Don’t Work
Coronary artery disease strikes epidemic numbers of aging humans. Erectile dysfunction can be one of the earliest symptoms of heart disease.1 Reduced libido and loss of fertility are also potential predictors of vascular disease.21
Unaware of these links, many aging men turn to drug prescriptions—such as Viagra®, Cialis®, or Levitra®—to treat sexual symptoms. These drugs work by relaxing the smooth muscles that line the arteries, thus increasing blood flow into arteries that supply the penis.
But these drugs work for only about half of erectile dysfunction patients, their effect is only temporary (although they can cost as much as $15 a pill),11 and their side effects can range from indigestion,22 flushing,23 visual disturbances,24-26 hearing loss,27,28 and headache29,30 to more serious health problems, such as neurologic disorders31 and heart attack.32
Above all, these medications do not treat the underlying cause of erectile dysfunction, heart disease, and peripheral artery disease: chronic endothelial dysfunction.
But you don’t have to rely on costly, dangerous, and often ineffective prescription drugs that only treat the symptom (erectile dysfunction) of a much larger health threat (coronary artery disease). Innovative scientists have determined three natural ingredients enhance endothelial function, and as a result simultaneously improve sexual capability and protect against heart attack and stroke.
Published research reveals how the interaction of these three natural ingredients tackles male sexual dysfunction from multiple angles.
How to Reverse Male Sexual Dysfunction
Healthy endothelial cells release nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that catalyzes production of the chemical compound nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine. Nitric oxide triggers relaxation of the smooth muscle in the arteries of the penis, providing the adequate blood flow necessary to support an erection. However, dysfunctional endothelial cells, disabled by plaque buildup, can no longer produce enough nitric oxide synthase.33
Fortunately, scientists have had remarkable success treating male sexual dysfunction with a nutrient blend that targets the underlying mechanisms of erectile dysfunction. This formulation includes:
- Pycnogenol® , a French maritime pine bark extract
- L-arginine aspartate, an amino acid chelate, and
- Icariin, a flavonoid compound used in Chinese herbal medicine.
Pycnogenol® and L-arginine aspartate work together to stimulate nitric oxide synthase, yielding sufficient bioactive nitric oxide to produce and maintain an erection.34
Icariin further supports the ability to maintain an erection by blocking phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5)—the enzyme responsible for causing erections to subside.35 This enzyme-blocking effect mimics the primary mechanism of Viagra®—although Viagra® delivers no other benefit.
Human trials have clearly demonstrated that this nutrient blend produces a broad array of clinically proven health effects including:
- Normal erectile function34,36,37
- Enhanced sperm quality and quantity38-40
- Increased male fertility39
- Higher sexual interest41 and greater intercourse frequency 34
- Enhanced sexual performance41
- Lowered blood cholesterol levels34 and
- Reduced blood pressure.34,36
This combination may provide additional health benefits, because stimulation of nitric oxide is also known to:
- Act as a neurotransmitter that is involved in long-term memory42-44
- Modulate the release of neurotransmitters45
- Promote a healthy immune system46 and
- Play a critical role in blood clotting through its modulation of vascular tone, coagulation, and fibrinolysis.47
Proven Results in Clinical Trials on Men
Multiple human studies have shown that supplementing with the components of this natural combination restores male sexual function,34,37-41 reverses low male fertility,38,40 and can even double the frequency of sex.34
In one study, patients aged 25 to 45 who were suffering from erectile dysfunction were treated for three months with arginyl aspartate (which provided the equivalent of 1.7 grams per day of L-arginine). After one month, only 5% of patients experienced normal erections. But during the second month, 80 milligrams daily of Pycnogenol® was added to the arginine regimen, at the end of which a significant 80% of patients were experiencing normal erections. During the third month, the Pycnogenol® dose was increased to 120 milligrams daily, at the end of which a compelling 92.5% of all participants achieved normal erectile function!37
Another clinical trial examined the effect of treatment with these two compounds on 50 middle-aged men with low testosterone levels who were suffering from erectile dysfunction and poor fertility (due to impaired sperm motility and morphology). The patients took 3 grams of L-arginine aspartate, 120 milligrams of Pycnogenol®, and 120 milligrams of testosterone undecanoate daily. By the 11-month mark, 76% of the men had achieved normal sexual function—and after 12 months, sperm quality and quantity had improved to such a point that an astounding 40% (20 out of 50 patients) had achieved fertilization.39
Other clinical studies further confirmed the ability of Pycnogenol® and L-arginine aspartate to restore erectile function,34 reverse low male fertility values by improving sperm quality 38,40 and semen volume,38 and double intercourse frequency.34
Icariin (or Yin Yang Huo)—a flavonoid compound extracted from plants in the Epimedium family—is the third ingredient of this trifecta based on its ability to block the action of PDE5, the enzyme that causes erections to subside.35,48-50
In human endothelial cell culture studies, as well as in animal models, icariin has been shown to enhance the production of nitric oxide.51-53 Additionally, scientists have noted that icariin behaves similarly to testosterone—a significant feature, since testosterone is crucial for healthy sexual function.54 Animal research has shown that administration of Epimedium extracts improves erectile function in aged rats.55 Together, these multiple mechanisms of action suggest that icariin can help maintain healthy erectile function.