Package labels for Viagra, Cialis, and other erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs should inform patients that ED is a sign of potentially fatal artery disease, according to a petition the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed with the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 10. Between 18 and 30 million men in the United States have ED.
The petition, filed during American Heart Month, recommends the following wording: "Erectile dysfunction is caused by artery disease, a condition that this drug will not improve. Artery disease can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and early death. A plant-based diet, moderate exercise, stress management, and lack of smoking can, in combination, improve and often reverse artery disease."
"A prescription for Viagra should include a lifesaving wake-up call for men with ED to adopt a heart-healthy diet," says Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of Your Body in Balance, which explains the science behind a plant-based diet's ability to fight ED. "Erectile dysfunction is a sign of narrowed arteries throughout a man's body, including the arteries to his heart and brain, putting him at high risk for heart attack, stroke, and death."
A recent meta-analysis found that men with ED have a 59 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis, a 34 percent higher risk of stroke, and a 33 percent higher risk of dying from any cause, compared with men without symptoms of ED.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes can help reduce heart disease and ED risk. A study published in The Lancet found that heart disease can be reversed with a plant-based diet, regular exercise, stress management, and no smoking.
The same diet changes that protect the heart can also reduce ED risk. According to a study published in the journal Urology, each additional daily serving of fruits or vegetables reduced ED risk in men with diabetes by 10 percent. Strawberries, apples, blueberries, and citrus fruits may be especially beneficial. A 2016 study found that men with the highest intakes of anthocyanins, flavones, and flavanones, phytonutrients found in these and other fruits, lowered their risk for ED by 14 percent when compared to those who consumed the least.
Research shows that even a 20 percent decrease in heart attacks or strokes as a result of screening and treatment could save $21.3 billion over 20 years. More than 1 million cases of ED would also be treated, saving $9.7 billion.