It was the little blue pill that transformed the sex lives of millions of men.
Now experts claim eating a handful of berries three times a week could be as effective at treating erectile dysfunction as Viagra.
In fact, the researchers claim snacking on fruit boosts sexual function as much as walking for five hours a week.
The key, they believe, is compounds called flavanoids and those called anthycyanins, in particular.
These are also found in cherries, blackberries, radishes, blackcurrants and blueberries.
Citrus fruits, which contain chemicals called flavanones and flavones, have a similar effect as does a glass of red wine.
Flavanoids found in food like blueberries can reduce impotence by 14 per cent, a new study found
In the new study, flavanoids found in these fruits helped to reduce impotence by 14 per cent.
While it was already known that flavanoids have health benefits, research by the University of East Anglia and Harvard University found that a flavanoid-rich diet resulted in the same improvement in preventing erectile dysfunction as brisk walking by up to five hours a week.
And combining a flavanoid-rich diet with walking will result in an even greater improvement in combating erectile dysfunction – by 21 per cent, the study found.
Treating erectile dysfunction has another health benefit as it is often a sign of poor circulation and heart health. Erectile dysfunction is an advance warning of heart disease, researchers said.
The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found the greatest benefit of flavanoid rich foods is to those under 70.
Lead researcher Professor Aedin Cassidy, from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘We already knew that intake of certain foods high in flavonoids may reduce the risk of conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The great thing about this study is that the benefits for reducing risk of erectile dysfunction can be found by including a few portions of fruits people already eat.
Professor Aedin Cassidy, University of East Anglia
‘This is the first study to look at the association between flavonoids and erectile dysfunction, which affects up to half of all middle-aged and older men.
‘Flavonoids are present in many plant-based foods and drinks including fruits, vegetables, tea, herbs and wine.’
The study examined six main types of commonly consumed flavonoids and found three in particular – anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones – to be beneficial.
Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 per cent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction, the study found.
She told MailOnline: ‘The great thing about this study is that the benefits for reducing risk of erectile dysfunction can be found by including a few portions of fruits people already eat.
‘Fruit was associated with a reduction in risk but in particular citrus fruits and berries – including blackberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, grapes, cherries – were associated with the greatest reduction in risk.
‘Just a few portions a week could offer some benefit. Most importantly, as well as improving sexual health for middle aged men, there is another important benefit linked to heart health.
Scientists found that a flavanoid rich diet can be as effective at reducing erectile dysfunction as briskly walking for up to five hours a week (file photo)
‘Erectile dysfunction is often an early barometer of poor vascular function and offers a critical opportunity to intervene and prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack and even death.’
The study involved tracking the health of more than 50,000 middle-aged men from 1986 onwards. Data on their dietary intake was taken every four years.
The research team took into account factors including weight, amount of exercise, how much caffeine they consumed, and whether they smoked.
The study was also restricted to men who were otherwise in good health.
Flavonoids are present in many plant-based foods and drinks including fruits, vegetables, tea, herbs and wine
More than one third of the subjects reported suffering erectile dysfunction, but those who had a diet rich in anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones were less likely to have the condition.
Professor Cassidy said: ‘The top sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones consumed in the U.S. are strawberries, blueberries, red wine, apples, pears, and citrus products. We also found that the benefits were strongest among younger men.’
Dr Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, added: ‘As well as improving sexual health for middle-aged men, there is another important benefit linked to heart health.
‘Erectile dysfunction is often an early barometer of poor vascular function and offers a critical opportunity to intervene and prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack and even death.
‘Men with erectile dysfunction are likely to be highly motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising more and eating the right foods – which would greatly benefit their long-term cardiovascular health as well.’
By 2025 erectile dysfunction will effect 322million men worldwide, the researchers estimate.