Currently, the research on the effects of vitamins and vitamin deficiencies on sexual health is very limited. Nevertheless, given that vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and for regulating bodily functions, it follows that a person’s vitamin levels could affect their sexual functioning as well. The following is what is known thus far about vitamins and their potential impact on sexual function.
Vitamin D, which can be produced through sun exposure and is found in fatty fish and fortified milk, is perhaps the most highly researched vitamin in terms of sexual health. In men, vitamin D appears to support testosterone production and healthy endothelial function. (The endothelium is a thin layer of cells inside the heart and the blood vessels that is necessary for relaxing and contracting the blood vessels, controlling blood clots, and helping with the body’s immune response).
Researchers have found that vitamin D helps stimulate nitric oxide and antioxidants in the endothelium which reduces inflammatory diseases that can hurt a person’s vascular function. This, in turn, may improve vascular function, which is very important for erectile function.
Past studies have found correlations between healthy levels of vitamin D and improved male sexual function. One such study found that men with vitamin D deficiency had significantly lower International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) scores than the men in the control group.
For women, vitamin D has been shown to help with the secretion of estrogen and the maturation of vaginal cells. Estrogen is a key hormone when it comes to female sexual function as it helps support healthy vaginal tissues and good lubrication, which makes sex more comfortable and enjoyable for women. In fact, intravaginal vitamin D suppositories have shown positive results in improving painful sex and vaginal atrophy symptoms in postmenopausal women when compared to a placebo.
Similar to vitamin D, vitamin C has been shown to be protective against endothelial dysfunction. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps with nitric oxide availability, which supports the endothelial and vascular function that crucial for good sexual functioning. This vitamin is found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and tomatoes.
In animal studies, vitamin E levels appear to be associated with Leydig cells, which are the main source of testosterone in males. Animals with vitamin E deficiency had a lower number of Leydig cells, lower testicular weights, and more testicular damage than healthy animals. While it appears that vitamin E may be helpful for testosterone production and, consequently, sexual functioning, it is important to determine if these findings translate to humans as well. Vitamin E is found in nuts, seeds, avocados, mangos, and plant-based oils.
Vitamin B9 (Folate)
Folate is found in beans, peanuts, whole grains, and dark leafy vegetables. Like other vitamins, it contributes to healthy endothelial function. Additionally, it is very important for metabolizing serotonin, which plays a major role in regulating ejaculation. A 2014 study in China found that folate deficiency was associated with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation in men. However, further research needs to be done to see how this vitamin may impact sexual functioning of humans across the board.
The Bottom Line
Vitamins may help support healthy sexual functioning, but sexual health is comprised of many different components including neurological processes, vascular function, mental health, and even relationship dynamics. Therefore, one should not expect that any sexual health issue can be solved by taking a multivitamin. Still, these findings suggest that there may be a sexual health benefit to eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking supplements to address any vitamin deficiencies you may have.
Ali, M., Smith, R.P., & Ortiz, N.M. (2022). The Impact of Vitamin Deficiencies on Sexual Health. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 19(9), 1313-1316. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2022.06.013
Crafa, A., Cannarella, R., Condorelli, R.A., La Vignera, S., & Calogero, A.E. (2020). Is there an association between vitamin D deficiency and erectile dysfunction? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 12(5), 1411. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051411
Yan, W.J., Yu, N., Yin, T.L., Zou, Y.J., & Yang, J. (2014). A new potential risk factor in patients with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation: folate deficiency. Asian Journal of Andrology, 16(6), 902. DOI: 10.4103/1008-682X.135981