Could a famous aphrodisiac save the NHS £23m per year

  • Why does Viagra fail for more than a third of those who take it?
  • Find out the common causes of impotence
  • Funny how red wine has made this list again!


Watching the TV last night an advert came on for a company called Numan.

The piece described how common erectile dysfunction was, but how uncommon it is for men to seek help to deal with it.

We are well into the twenty first century, and there is still a huge taboo about sex, and more importantly sexual function.

But only amongst men it seems.

Our better halves are so much better at discussing health issues than we are; both with professionals and amongst their friends.

I consider myself a well informed and open type of bloke, but even I start mumbling into my beer at the prospect of asking a mate about his prostate, let alone any form of sexual dysfunction.

As young men we often boasted about the girls we were with, and happily embroidered our conquests for public consumption, but there comes a time when all that stops.

Perhaps that’s why we have seen the huge demand for Viagra; a simple solution to erectile dysfunction that can be taken discreetly, and gives immediate effect.

In this day and age you don’t even need to go the GP it seems, as specialist clinics, chemists, on-line pharmacies and even Tesco increase their sales to a growing number of men in the UK.

Unfortunately though, new research by leading doctors shows that Viagra only works for just over half of those who are taking it. When the medication doesn’t work it is usually due to an imbalance in the male hormone, testosterone, which can be as a consequence of diabetes.

A leading expert in the field states that upto 40% of impotent men have low levels of testosterone, which renders the little blue pill useless.

Dr Geoffrey Hackett, a consultant urologist at Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham, and former chairman of the British Society for Sexual Medicine, went so far as saying that more than half of men taking Viagra found it did not solve their problems adequately.

His research shows that by taking steps to address a lack of testosterone most men will overcome erectile dysfunction problems without needing any other intervention. Dr Hackett states “If low testosterone is the problem then Viagra won’t be the answer on its own. There is a lot being wasted on this in the NHS, particularly in diabetes patients”

Estimates put the annual cost of Viagra to the NHS at £58 million, so if there is fact in these statements it means that we are wasting over £23 million per year on ineffective prescriptions for this drug.

A simple blood test would determine testosterone levels, so why is this not done as a matter of routine prior to Viagra being prescribed?

And more importantly, if a lack of testosterone is the cause of such a high incidence of impotence then we need to think about how we can affect this before reaching for a pharmaceutical remedy.

Common causes that may be surprising

Factors that can increase the chances of developing erectile dysfunction include:

  • the natural aging process
  • having some health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease
  • taking certain medications, including antidepressants and blood pressure drugs
  • experiencing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression
  • smoking
  • consuming too much alcohol
  • having overweight or obesity
  • being physically inactive

According to 2016 research, the main cause is poor vascular function. As a result, the risk factors for erectile dysfunction are the same as those for cardiovascular disease.

But does that mean we can affect how this problem occurs by concentrating on maintaining the lifestyle that protects our heart?

Well it appears that this will help, but there are other things we should do to reduce the risk.

Part of that can be choosing the right things to eat.

The key to keeping testosterone levels high is zinc, the essential building block for production of the male hormone. So it stands to reason that foods which are zinc rich should feature heavily in our diet.

  • Brown rice, cheese & turkey. These are all rich in zinc, and can easily be included into our normal diets, even on a budget.
  • Yes, it’s true this aphrodisiac is a fantastic source of zinc. This is also the case for other shellfish such as clams, mussels and scallops.
  • Pine and pecan nuts. Of all the nuts these two provide the most zinc in the diet.
  • Wheat germ & bran. A vital constituent of wholemeal flours, especially good for homemade breads and mueslis.

Another way to reduce risk is to eat diets rich in flavanoids, a topic I covered a few weeks ago when I was writing about good quality chocolate and I also mentioned the role an amino acid called Argenine can play.

Foods rich in flavenoids include;

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • apples
  • pears
  • citrus products

Oh, and red wine as well!

Once again the simple pharmaceutical solution has been found wanting, however, for those who are taking it without success they are unlikely to be telling anyone.

So it’s about time we started to talk about this chaps, don’t suffer in silence, when the world returns to normal again get down to the GP and get a blood test – it could make all the difference.