If you’ve looked online for information about treating erectile dysfunction (ED), you’ve probably come across vitamins, minerals and other supplements promising major improvements in your erections and sexual performance.
As we’ve explained in our guide to herbal supplements for ED, most non-prescription products for treating ED are, to put it lightly, lacking in scientific evidence.
Vitamin supplements are similar. Although vitamins have numerous health benefits, most aren’t proven to treat erectile dysfunction or have any major effects on your abilities in bed.
With this said, some research shows that deficiencies of certain vitamins might be a contributing factor in erectile dysfunction. As such, if you’re deficient, adding these vitamins to your diet may improve your erections if you’re affected by ED.
Below, we’ve dug into the science behind vitamins and ED to explain how certain vitamins may affect your sexual performance. We’ve also talked about science-based, FDA-approved options for treating ED that you may want to consider if you often experience erection issues.
Erectile dysfunction is a common condition that affects men of all ages. It occurs when you can’t develop or maintain an erection firm enough for satisfying penetrative sex. Erection issues tend to be defined as ED when:
Although ED is more common in older men, it can affect young men too. An estimated 30 million men of all ages, races and backgrounds in the United States are affected by erectile dysfunction to some degree.
ED is caused by a variety of factors. Some of these are physical, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Others are psychological, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or guilt about having sex.
Sometimes, ED can develop as a side effect of medication. Certain health and lifestyle factors, such as your weight, use of tobacco products or physical activity level, may also have an effect on your erectile health and sexual performance.
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the proper functioning of your body. Vitamins play major roles in the development of your bones and organs. They also power vital biological processes that keep you alive, from your metabolism to the operation of your brain.
Because vitamins play such important roles in your health and survival, vitamin deficiencies can have serious negative effects on your wellbeing. For some vitamins, these effects could include erectile dysfunction.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, is an important vitamin for metabolic function. It’s also linked to a lower risk of certain types of cardiovascular disease thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.
Some research shows that niacin may be helpful for treating erectile dysfunction. For example, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2011 found that men affected by ED and dyslipidemia experienced improvements in erectile function after taking niacin for 12 weeks.
Niacin is widely available as a health supplement. It’s also found in a wide range of foods. You can find niacin in:
Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is another important vitamin. It plays key roles in the synthesis of DNA and RNA -- essential molecules for storing and reading genetic information. It’s also important for the production of healthy red blood cells.
Some research has found that men who are deficient in folic acid may be more likely to develop erectile dysfunction.
For example, a study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology analyzed the folic acid levels of men with ED. The researchers found that men with erectile dysfunction typically had lower levels of folic acid than healthy, unaffected men.
Interestingly, low levels of folic acid were also associated with premature ejaculation -- another common male sexual performance issue.
Other studies have also found links between folic acid and ED.
A newer study from 2020 noted a more direct link between folic acid and erectile health. In this study, men with ED showed measurable improvements in erectile health after taking a folic acid supplement on a daily basis for three months.
However, that’s not enough research to say that folic acid should be prescribed in lieu of science-backed FDA-approved ED medications, but rather in conjunction with them.
Folic acid is available as a health supplement. It’s also found in a wide range of foods, including the following:
Folic acid is also commonly added to many breads, cereals, pastas and other grain products in order to prevent deficiencies.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is one of the most well-known, popular vitamins. It’s also one of the most important. Vitamin C plays a key role in the biosynthesis of several vital neurotransmitters, as well as important structural proteins such as collagen.
It’s also essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums, absorbing iron and promoting proper wound healing.
Although there are no studies on vitamin C’s effects on erectile health, research has found that vitamin C may play a role in some biological processes related to erections.
For example, a review published in Fertility and Sterility noted that vitamin C is one of several vitamins and minerals that supports the biochemical pathway that leads to the release of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide, or NO, is generally viewed as the principal agent responsible for relaxing the soft tissue inside your penis, allowing blood to flow in and create an erection.
Vitamin C is easy to add to your diet. You can purchase vitamin C supplements for most health food stores and drugstores. Many fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamin C, including the following:
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that your body absorbs through UV radiation from the sun and from certain foods.
According to a review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, around 24 percent of people in the United States have clinically low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are even more common in Canada and Europe.
Although research into the effects of vitamin D on sexual performance is limited, some studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is linked to erectile dysfunction.
For example, a small study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research found that men with vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency had lower levels of erectile function than men with normal vitamin D levels. However, it’s also worth noting that this study was aimed specifically at investigating sexual function and depression symptoms in young men with vitamin D deficiency.
A meta-analysis from 2020 also found that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with severe forms of erectile dysfunction.
The most readily available source of vitamin D is the sun. Researchers suggest spending about five to 30 minutes in the sun between 10am and 4pm either daily or at least two times per week to ensure you take in sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
If you live in an area with limited sunlight or prefer not to spend too much time outdoors, you can also take in vitamin D from supplements or food. Foods that contain vitamin D include:
If you have a vitamin deficiency -- for example, you’re deficient in vitamin D -- increasing your consumption of the specific vitamin in which you’re deficient may help to improve your erectile health and prevent ED.
However, more reliable treatments for ED are available. If you find it difficult to get or maintain an erection, consider one of the following medications:
Unlike vitamins and other supplements, all of these medications are approved by the FDA for treating erectile dysfunction. Our guide to the most common ED treatments explains how they work in more detail, as well as how you can use them if you’re prone to ED.
Although research is limited, some studies have shown a link between ED and certain vitamin deficiencies.
If you’re deficient in vitamins B3, B9, C or D, increasing your consumption may help to improve your ED symptoms. However, if you aren’t deficient, there’s no guarantee that taking a vitamin supplement will have much of an effect on your sexual performance.
For more reliable relief from ED, it’s best to talk to a licensed healthcare provider to learn more about your options.