The erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra (sildenafil) may help men fight obesity and excess weight. For now, the research has been done in mice only, but the discovery is promising.
Viagra is in a drug class called phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors). Other drugs in this class include Levitra (vardenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), and Stendra (avanafil). They are among numerous pills and drugs for erectile dysfunction treatment.
The erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra works by stopping the breakdown of a certain substance, which then makes sure blood gets to the penis so an erection can occur. This is why men take Viagra and similar drugs in this class.
However, Viagra also appears to help ward off excess fat. In earlier studies, scientists discovered that Viagra given to mice made them resistant to gaining weight. This benefit was seen even though the mice were eating a high-fat diet.
How the erectile dysfunction treatment works
Now scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany have discovered how the erectile dysfunction treatment works to fight fat. Briefly, the drug boosts the transformation of white fat cells into beige or brown ones.
White fat cells are associated with abdominal fat or the spare tire many men carry around their middle. “Beige fat cells burn the energy from ingested food and convert it to heat,” according to one of the study’s authors, Professor Dr. Alexander Pfeifer, director of the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn.
Abdominal fat and excess weight are risk factors for prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health conditions. Overweight and obesity also are associated with erectile dysfunction and BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate).
Another benefit of Viagra appears to be its ability to stop fat cells from releasing hormones. When white fat cells send hormones into the body, inflammation can result. Inflammation increases the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Should men take Viagra for weight problems?
The study’s authors warn that their findings are preliminary. Although Viagra appears to help reduce the risk of gaining excess weight and fat, further research is needed. So far, investigations into the effect of this erectile dysfunction treatment on weight and fat have been done in mice only. For now, men should view Viagra solely as an erectile dysfunction drug.
Read more in our Erectile Dysfunction Health Center.
Mitschke MM et al. Increased cGMP promotes healthy expansion and browning of white adipose tissue. FASEB Journal 2013 Apr; 27(4): 1621-30