How Can Obesity Affect Sexual Function in Men, and What Can We Do?

Obese man flipping meat patty while cooking in kitchen

Obesity is an insidious disease affecting many parts of our bodies. It also has physical and psychological effects that can change someone’s life and lifestyle in a decidedly negative way. Unfortunately, with such a significant part of the population overweight and obese in the United States today, metabolic diseases and their consequences are becoming increasingly apparent. While the effects of obesity on many parts of the body and organs are discussed all over the internet, we are less apt to discuss sexual function, something that can be significantly impaired in individuals with obesity. For this article, we will be talking about male patients and the two most problematic consequences of obesity, as far as sexual function – low desire and erectile dysfunction…

Low T and Low Desire

It stands for low testosterone, and it is a concern that many obese patients have since excess weight and obesity can reduce testosterone levels in the body. Eating a diet rich in saturated fats, highly processed sugars and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to suppressing this hormone. Testosterone is crucial to the life we are accustomed to, and suppression of testosterone because of excess weight or obesity can cause significant problems, from low energy to mental health concerns. Unfortunately, clinical low testosterone or hypogonadism is very common and even minor drops can impact the body. About 45% of men over age 40 have levels that are considered low.

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is another sexual problem that many patients with obesity also experience. ED can be caused by several issues, both physical and psychological. ED can sometimes be psychological for younger patients, which may be exacerbated by concerns and insecurities associated with excess weight and appearance. In most men, however, erectile dysfunction results from plaque buildup within the artery supplying the penis. This plaque can slow blood flow and prevent enough blood from reaching the penis for an erection. The occlusion of blood vessels is worsened by excess weight and obesity.

The Solutions

There are many solutions to erectile dysfunction and other sexual issues that we will touch upon here, but ultimately, it is best discussed with a multi-specialist team to include your PCP, urologist, and bariatric surgeon. Clinical low testosterone can be treated with hormone replacement therapy, including creams or injections to normalize testosterone levels. However, excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle also need your attention.

Erectile dysfunction can be treated with ubiquitous ED medications such as Viagra or Cialis or their generic counterparts, Sildenafil or Tadalafil. These medications are relatively safe and effective for the healthy patient. While they can help for a while, their effectiveness eventually diminishes, and patients may have to consider the next steps. However, while ED caused by blood flow issues is irreversible, progression can be delayed by losing weight and getting healthier.

Working with low testosterone is not straightforward. It’s often best to try lifestyle changes and weight loss up to and including bariatric surgery to improve testosterone levels rather than rely on testosterone shots that may have side effects. Proper diet, cardiovascular and strengthening exercises, and quitting smoking and drinking are a must.

The most critical next step is to lose weight through any of the many means available to patients today. Whether through diet and exercise, weight loss, medication, or bariatric surgery, losing weight can offer physical and hormonal benefits, and we encourage you to contact us to learn more.