“The girl almost left the guy, he’s always drinking coke and can’t perform”, says a Nigerian lady whose friend believes her male partner is experiencing the side effects of soft drinks. By non-performance, she meant that the male partner has developed erectile dysfunction and is unable to satisfy his partner in bed, no thanks to his constant consumption of coke. This is the belief of many in Nigeria but is there really a relationship between the consumption of soft drinks and erectile dysfunction?
The belief that the consumption of soft drinks leads to erectile dysfunction, what many refer to as “being unable to perform,” seems to be a long standing one. A news report by Premium Times in 2017 has a similar claim making reference to a study by Jan Adamowicz.
According to this study, the probability that there is a relationship between soft drink consumption and erectile dysfunction is very high but a long term study is needed to get statistical proof of the hypothesis.
In recent times, this belief was resurrected by the proposed tax on carbonated drinks by the Nigerian government. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, during the public presentation of the 2022 budget announced the introduction of an excise duty of N10 per litre on all non-alcoholic, carbonated and sweetened beverages. This decision she said was to discourage excessive consumption of sugar in beverages which contributes to a number of health conditions including diabetes and obesity.
DUBAWA conducted a survey to find out how popular this belief is in Nigeria.
The link to the Google Form was shared online on Friday, January 15, 2022 to Friday January 29,2022 and responses show that this belief is quite popular. 68.8% of the respondents said they have heard of it and 48.4% say they believe it.
31.3% of the respondents are however unaware of this.
Family and friends turned out to be the major sources of this claim, as 52.4% of the respondents said they heard the claim from either a family member or a friend. Another major source of this belief identified by respondents is social media.
Before we look at whether this popular belief is true or not or if there is a relationship between the two, let’s get to understand what soft drinks and erectile dysfunction are.
Soft drinks and it’s composition.
Soft drinks also known as carbonated drinks are non-alcoholic drinks that contain water, flavour, sweetening, and carbon dioxide gas. Some of them contain one or more of the colour ( such as caramel or burnt sugar), acid (usually citric found in lemons, or tartaric found in grapes), and a condiment (such as capsicum or red pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, or nutmeg).
Sweeteners for soft drinks before now were ordinary white granulated sugar but we now have sugar substitutes, such as corn syrup or glucose, corn sugar or commercial dextrose, maltose syrup, refiners’ syrup, and honey.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. According to Mayoclinic, while having erection trouble from time to time isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, it should be taken seriously when it becomes an ongoing issue as it can cause stress, affect self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems.
Symptoms of erectile dysfunction include persistent trouble getting an erection, keeping an erection or reduced sexual desire.
What experts say
A gynaecologist at the National Hospital Abuja, Dr, Jeremiah Agim, said that a rich refined-carbohydrate diet has a role in impairing endothelial function through glucose and lipid metabolism disturbance, and this is likely why erectile dysfunction is associated with high soft drink consumption.
“So if you want a single yes or no answer. The answer is yes from overconsumption of soft drink. But I will prefer a holistic fact reporting rather than focus on a dot in the map. This is just another case of the media focusing on a dot and exaggerating it.” he said.
He said there is a need for a study to be carried out on humans as the study by Jan Adamowicz was an animal model study and this cannot replace the human model.
“This study was actually carried out in a rat model. It may have a different outcome in human male. The key point in this research work is the term metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterised by diabetes, obesity, hypertension and dyslipidemia (dyslipidemia which is abnormal fat metabolism).
“So if you go through the study carefully you will find all these medical problems linked to erectile dysfunction and sweetened soft drink drinks were used as a source of excess calorie. They also mention poor nutrition linking to these medical problems. In the long run it is not only the soft drink but the rich refined carbohydrate diet of which soft drink is one of them,” he added.
Dr. Okpanachi Achile, a medical officer at Rehoboth Specialist Hospital Lokoja said diabetes is the link between the two.
“Diabetes is an important cause of erectile dysfunction. Excessive soda or soft drink consumption increases the risk of diabetes and consequently erectile dysfunction” he said.
Dr Sunday Idoko, another gynecologist at Garki Hospital Abuja, agrees with Dr. Achile.
“I have not studied it (Jan’s research) but I have heard such. I think a lot has to do with the sugar contents. Too much sugar or processed sugar may lead to diabetes (not always the case) and one of the complications of diabetes is erectile dysfunction” he said.
Jane Hingley, superintendent pharmacist at Pharmacy Direct GB also noted that studies in the past have shown a link between caffeine and soft drinks with erectile dysfunction. This she said could be because of the link between these types of drinks and the risk of becoming overweight or obese seeing erectile dysfunction is more common with obese persons.
“Some studies have indicated a link between soft drinks and the onset of Erectile Dysfunction. One such study was conducted back in 2010 and examined the effect of caffeine on 2,554 Danish men. The study found that the men who drink large quantities of caffeine – particularly coca-cola – have a reduced sperm concentration and total sperm count than those whose caffeine consumption is moderate to low.
“A scientific review conducted a year later also suggested that soft drinks may contribute to progression of ED, however this time due to their high calorie content, refined carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) content. A possible explanation for this could be the link between these types of drinks and the risk of becoming overweight or obese, as we know that Erectile Dysfunction is more common in these types of individuals” she explained.
However she noted that recent studies have removed the possibility of erectile dysfunction from the consumption of caffeine and soft drinks
“Recent studies have actually alluded to the opposite, stating that soft drinks could actually reduce the risk of ED. A study carried out in 2015 found that men who drink between 2 and 3 cups of coffee a day are 39% less likely to experience ED than those who did not consume caffeine at all. One possible reason for this could be caffeine’s role in relaxing the arteries and smoothing muscles in the body. When this takes place in the penis, this would enable more blood to flow to the area, thereby reducing the risk of erectile function.
“That said, more recent research carried out in 2018 has in fact found that high caffeine drinks such as coca cola and coffee have no significant impact on the risk of developing Erectile Dysfunction, and that men who consume these types of drinks are neither more nor less likely to develop the condition based on caffeine intake alone” she added.
Dubawa therefore sought to find studies on caffeine and erectile dysfunction and found researches with conflicting findings.
Another study in 2017 said it does not affect fertility as it found no link between caffeine intake and semen quality.
What we deduced was that while the 2004 study focused on caffeine and caffeine soda drinks and erectile dysfunction, the two other studies focused on caffeine and fertility not erectile dysfunction.
Seeing Erectile dysfunction and fertility are not the same thing, and the focus here is not the caffeine content of soft drinks, these studies do not apply here.
It has been established that obesity leads to erectile dysfunction, and the high consumption of soft drinks is one of the causes of obesity, it is therefore safe to say there is a relationship between the consumption of soft drinks and erectile dysfunction.
Experts have also noted that the consumption of a rich refined carbohydrate diet under which soft drink falls leads to erectile dysfunction.
However, experts still call for more human study to be carried out on this.