Men's Health Issues

9. December 2011 10:29 by IKE in Body Health, Health  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

The general topic of men’s health is quite broad and can include issues that are part of women’s health too. Good examples here are cardiovascular wellbeing and weight loss. However, prostate health and conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED) are peculiar to men.
In men, vascular health and sexual function are very closely related. Erectile dysfunction not only adversely affects intimate relationships but it can also indicate potential cardiovascular health problems. In many cases, erectile difficulties may be a sign of an underlying cardiovascular disorder. Because vascular health reflects erectile function, it’s not surprising that nutritional supplement ingredients that support healthy erectile performance also contribute to cardiovascular health.
Supplements that are intended to combat ED usually contain ingredients that will support optimal nitric oxide (NO) levels in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels to facilitate improved blood flow. The amino acid arginine is well known for its cardiovascular benefits primarily because of its conversion to NO in the endothelial cells that line the internal surfaces of arteries. Increased vascular smooth muscle relaxation and the resulting improved blood flow to erectile tissue are due to enhanced NO production. It has been shown that oral arginine supplementation supports erectile function when compared with placebo (1).
Horny goatweed (Epimedium sagittatum) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries because of its aphrodisiac effects and support of erectile health. Scientists have isolated and characterized icariin and have shown this flavonoid derivative to be the major Viagra-like active component (2). Recent research has demonstrated that icariin selectively inhibits phosphodiesterase type 5 (PPE-5), an enzyme that causes a rapid termination of male sexual activity. By blocking this enzyme, sexual activity in men is sustained. Additionally, icariin enhances the production of NO from arginine. As we now know, increased production of NO by cells in the arterial wall results in dilatation of the penile blood vessels, which increases blood flow and maintains erectile function. This mechanism of action for natural icariin is amazingly similar to that of synthetic Viagra (3).
Other herbs and nutrients have a long history of safe and effective use in ED and complement the actions of arginine and horny goatweed. These include maca root or Peruvian ginseng (Lepidium meyenii), yohimbe root bark (Pausinystalia yohimbe) and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). All three of these ingredients act as aphrodisiacs and are noted for their erectile and sexual health benefits in men.
Another men’s health issue that is fairly widespread in men is enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Keep in mind that BPH is not prostatic cancer but it can be bothersome. Men usually know when they encounter BPH because of difficult urination and frequent nocturnal urination. The currently accepted and most plausible theory supporting the etiology of BPH centers on prostatic testosterone and its excessive conversion to the more potent dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The enzyme 5-alpha reductase catalyzes this conversion and once formed, DHT stimulates the proliferation of prostatic cells. It appears logical that high levels of DHT leads to excessive numbers of prostatic cells, which can result in an enlarged prostate.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is the most popular and best understood ingredient that provides benefit in cases of BPH. The lipophilic (fat soluble) fraction from saw palmetto berries is most active and it appears that fatty acids from this fraction inhibit 5-alpha reductase to lower prostate levels of DHT. The bark of the African plum tree (Pygeum africana) has also shown significant benefit in cases of BPH. Evidence suggests that pygeum bark actives may inhibit growth factors that contribute to prostate cell growth and the resulting hyperplasia. Also, there is evidence that points to pygeum actives having anti-inflammatory activity in the enlarged prostate (4). A third herbal ingredient that has shown value in relieving BPH is the root of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). Research on the root extract is not definitive but seems to suggest an anti-inflammatory effect as well as an interference with proliferation of prostatic epithelial cells. Interestingly, the root contains an active(s) that blocks the binding of prostatic androgens, testosterone and DHT, to an essential binding globulin (5). There have been anecdotal reports of the carotenoid lycopene and the mineral zinc producing prostate health benefits.
Maintenance of men’s health is an important priority and should not be ignored. Several nutritional approaches that offer meaningful benefit are available. My belief and the long-standing goal of all should be to optimize the proper functioning of all body systems and to preserve their highest achievable health. These beliefs must be embraced and the goals can and should be achieved.
Created by Dr. William J. Keller
  1. Melman A. This month in investigative urology. L-arginine and penile erection. Journal of Urology. 1997 Sep;158(3 Pt 1):686.
  2. Dell’Agli M, et al. Potent inhibition of human phosphodiesterase-5 by icariin derivatives. Journal of Natural Products. 2008 Sep;71(9):1513-7. Abstract available at:
  3. Xu, HB, Huang ZQ. Icariin enhances endothelial nitric-oxide synthase expression on human endothelial cells in vitro. Vascular Pharmacology. 2007 Jul;47(1):18-24. Abstract available at:
  4. Levin, RM, Levin SS, Zhao Y, Buttyan R. Cellular and molecular aspects of bladder hypertrophy. European Urology. 1997;32 Suppl 1:15-21. Abstract available at:
  5. Jellin, J. 2010 Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 12 ed. pp 1592-1595.


The benefits of cocoa and chocolate flavonoids

20. November 2009 18:42 by IKE in General, Health  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

Since the discovery that cocoa benefits are not just limited to pleasing the taste buds, cocoa has continued to gather support for its healthful properties. Cocoa, the primary
component of chocolate, is a rich source of epicatechin, a flavonol believed to be responsible for the health benefits of chocolate. Teas (green and black) and red wine are
also noted for their epicatechin content, but cocoa has a higher concentration.1

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that consuming cocoa flavonols improved vascular function in persons with type II diabetes.
Loss of vascular function is one of the primary markers for the development of cardiovascular disease. This is especially true in diabetic individuals.

In a double-blind trial conducted by Malte Kelm, M.D., and colleagues at University Hospital RWTH Aachen in Germany, 41 patients with type II diabetes were given a
beverage containing cocoa flavonols three times a day for 30 days. Immediate improvement in vascular health (measured by the ability of the brachial artery to relax)
was observed in the group with the highest flavonol consumption. According to doctor Kelm, these results demonstrate that dietary flavonols might have an important impact
as part of a healthy diet.

Previous studies have shown that cocoa benefits are not limited to persons with type II diabetes. The flavonols in cocoa may also help keep blood pressure down and help
maintain heart health in persons without specific risk factors. Cocoa is believed to promote optimal cardiovascular health by activating the nitric oxide system.2 Nitric oxide
is an important molecule responsible for controlling multiple functions within the body, including the dilation of blood vessels2 and platelet aggregation (clot formation)3. A
decreased release of nitric oxide into the arterial wall is associated with multiple warning signs of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and the formation of
atherosclerotic plaque.

Cocoa flavonols are a particularly significant type of flavonoid molecule. A recent analysis has found that not all flavonoids and sources of flavonoids provide equal
benefits. Using data from the 133 studies, researchers found wide variations in effects, depending on the nature of the flavonoid and the food source. Of more than 6,000
different flavonoids that have been discovered in various plants, a few stand above the rest in the benefits they provide. Chocolate flavonoids are especially effective in their
support of cardiovascular health. Flavonoids from chocolate were associated with a 4 percent increase in blood flow, and a reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.4
On the other hand, black te, which also contains flavonoids, was linked to increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.4

Today, Americans consume an average of about 12 pounds of chocolate per person, per year and this may not be a bad thing. While milk chocolate is still the favorite, the health-
promoting qualities of flavonols are attributed to the dark variety.

1. Ki Won Lee, Young Jun Kim, Hyong Joo Lee, and Chang Yong Lee. Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2003; 51(25) 7292–7295.

2. Fisher ND, Hughes M, Gerhard-Herman M, Hollenberg NK. Flavonol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxidedependent vasodilation in healthy humans. J Hypertens. 2003 Dec;21(12):2281-6.
3. Rein D, Paglieroni TG, Wun T, Pearson DA, Schmitz HH, Gosselin R, and Keen CL. Cocoa inhibits platelet activation and function. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:30-5.
4. Hooper L, Kroon PA, Rimm EB, Cohn JS, Harvey I, Le Cornu KA, Ryder JJ, Hall WL, Cassidy A.
Flavonoids, flavonoid-rich foods, and cardiovascular risk: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:38-50.

Created by Larisa Wright