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Why men who take small steps are 40% more likely to have erectile dysfunction

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*Sex addiction could be caused by too much of cuddle hormone oxytocin, study suggests
Men who take small steps are 40 per cent more likely to have erectile dysfunction because they have weaker pelvic muscles, scientists believe.

Researchers in Japan measured the stride length of men, as well as how far they lifted their feet from the ground while walking. Those with smaller steps were more likely to struggle with impotence than those with long strides, results revealed.

The researchers believe the strength of the muscles in the pelvis play a role in the ability to get and maintain an erection.

Lead author Dr. Shingo Hatakeyama, from Hirosaki University, said: “Muscle strength and flexibility of the pelvis and legs are key factors for erectile dysfunction.

“We believe that both erectile dysfunction and small steps can be caused by weak pelvic muscles.”

The findings, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, come from a study on 324 men. The length of each participant’s step and the height of their foot while walking measured their gait. For example, the two-step test measured the distance of two steps in centimetres divided by height in centimetres.

It represents balance, flexibility, and muscle strength of the lower limbs and is used in Japan to assess a person’s risk of reduced mobility.

Men with small steps had an average score of 153cm, and those with large steps had an average score of 166cm.

Erectile dysfunction was assessed with the five-Item International Index of Erectile Function test. Scores of 25–22 indicate no erectile dysfunction while five to seven indicate severe erectile dysfunction.

The researchers divided the men into two groups – those with a low score of less than 16 and those with a score of more than 16. Men with the smallest strides were 40 per cent more likely to have erectile dysfunction, independent of other factors.

The authors wrote: “Major differences between the two scores include such factors as balance, flexibility, and muscle strength.”

The team also noted that previous research has linked those with small steps with weak pelvic floor muscles. A man’s pelvic floor muscles support his bladder and bowel, as well as sexual function.

The researchers said: “The risk of erectile dysfunction in men with low two-step scores might be attributed to weak pelvic floor muscles.”

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection adequate for sexual satisfaction. It is often caused by stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol, and usually resolves itself.

Decreased physical activity has also been found to be a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, with studies finding those who exercise often have a lesser likelihood of impotence.

Resistance training and combat sport training is thought to be useful to treat erectile dysfunction by enhancing testosterone levels, self-esteem, and stress management.

Meanwhile, sex addiction really does exist, scientists say, and it may be driven by having too much of a ‘cuddle’ hormone.

Despite claims that one in ten men and one in 12 women are sex addicts – including stars like Michael Douglas and Tiger Woods – many refuse to believe it is a real condition.

But now researchers say they have found differences in the genetic make-up of addicts. They think this increases levels of oxytocin, the so-called cuddle hormone, which is said to make people bond and stay together.

Those with excess oxytocin may be attracted to many people at the same time, leading them to compulsively seek out sex. The hormone is also thought to make sex more rewarding.

Researchers, led by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, looked at the blood of 60 people, mainly men, who were being treated for sex addiction. They discovered important differences in their ‘microRNA’ genetic material.

The study’s senior author, Professor Jussi Jokinen, said: “A lot of sufferers cannot control their behaviour and it can have adverse effects on their lives, from broken relationships to depression and anxiety.

“Based on our findings, and other researchers’, there is emerging evidence that sex addiction is a medical diagnosis which has a neurobiological cause.”

Last year the World Health Organisation declared sex addiction a mental disorder for the first time.

The study, published in the journal Epigenetics, compared 60 sex addicts with 33 non-addicts, looking at ‘chemical tags’ on their genes.

Researchers stressed the difference between people was very small, but enough to change their microRNA.

The findings could explain why cognitive behavioural therapy, which lowers oxytocin, helps addicts change their ways and could lead to a new drug to block the ‘cuddle’ hormone.


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