Obese men SHED-IT and get an unexpected boost

Oct 21 2013

Professor Clare Collins

An internationally-recognised University of Newcastle weight loss program tailored specifically for men has produced a benefit that is likely to be a powerful motivator to shed the excess kilos – improved erectile function.

The low-cost SHED-IT (Self Help Exercise and Diet Using IT) program motivates men to lose weight using a range of resources including the internet, a DVD and printed materials, without requiring face-to-face contact.

Currently 68 per cent of Australian men are overweight or obese and erectile dysfunction is associated with both risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and poorer quality of life in these men. Although one in five Australian men experience erectile dysfunction, only 30 per cent seek medical help.

Professor Clare Collins, Co-Director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, said the SHED-IT program was tailored for men and designed based on the physiology and psychology of blokes.

“The idea of SHED-IT is for men to learn that making positive changes to their daily food and exercise habits means they can still have a beer, and other things they enjoy, while getting their weight under control,” Professor Collins said.

The randomised controlled trial studied 145 sexually active overweight/obese men. Erectile function was assessed using the validated International Index of Erectile Function-5 (IIEF-5) questionnaire which assesses factors such as confidence, frequency of experience and degree of difficulty.

“Erectile function was compared between men participating in the SHED-IT program and the control group. Both groups were assessed at the beginning of the study and three and six months later. The results showed that men participating in SHED-IT lost weight but also experienced an improvement in their erectile function. Even men without sexual dysfunction prior to SHED-IT experienced some improvement in their erectile performance following weight loss.

“This outcome is likely to be a strong motivator for men who need to lose a few kilograms and has the potential to be used in strategies designed to engage men in weight loss attempts.”

* The SHED-IT program was pilot-funded by HMRI supporters, the Thomson family. The team behind this study includes Professor Clare Collins, Professor Philip Morgan, Professor Ron Plotnikoff, Professor Robin Callister, Mr Myles Young and Dr Megan Jensen. University of Newcastle health researchers work in collaboration with HMRI – a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.