Supporting Men’s Health

How supplements benefit heart health, muscle strength, sexual vitality and prostate health in men.

Men's Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are living longer than ever; on average, they are hitting the ripe old age of 83. However, as men grow older, they often face several health challenges that affect their sexual vitality, prostate care, muscle strength and heart health. While supplementation cannot cure these issues, they may be able to support shoppers before their time of need. Therefore, it’s essential for retailers not only to know and understand key men’s health issues, but also to offer a host of products to meet their needs.

Heart Health
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease causes more than 17 million deaths worldwide each year and is responsible for half of all deaths in the United States (1). Additionally, after menopause, when women’s mortality rate from heart disease increases, men have an even greater risk of heart attacks than women do (2). They also have attacks earlier in life (2).

While research is ongoing about why men tend to experience heart disease at younger ages than women, health professionals theorize that contributing factors include poorly treated high blood pressure, unfavorable cholesterol levels and developing atherosclerosis early. Another theory is that after ages 25–30, the average man’s “maximum attainable heart rate declines by about one beat per minute, per year, and his heart’s peak capacity to pump blood drifts down by 5–10% per decade”(3). This, in turn, causes a 65-year-old man to pump only 1.5 quarts of oxygen per minute, while a 25 year old can pump 2.5 quarts.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body, may be beneficial in supporting the health of vessel walls, circulatory health, heart muscle function and even normalize the oxidative state of LDL cholesterol. In a 10-year study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure, patients taking 100 mg of CoQ10 three times daily showed supplementation improved quality of life, extended one’s lifespan and even restored deficient CoQ10 levels in patients with moderate-to-severe heart failure.

Researchers believe CoQ10 is able to help those with high cholesterol not only because CoQ10 levels tend to be lower in these patients, but also because its antioxidant activity helps fight free radicals, supports proper oxygen use by cells and increases exercise capacity in people with heart failure (4).

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most-researched natural supplements for supporting heart health. Omega-3s support healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels and slow the development of artery-clogging plaque and blood clots (5). In a randomized controlled trial, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, EPA and DHA decreased plasma triacylglycerols (fats in the blood), lowered blood pressure, lessened platelet aggregation (which can cause clog arteries), lowered inflammation and improved vascular reactivity (6). Some of these heart health benefits may be the result of Resolvin E1 (produced from EPA), which is said to lessen inflammation in studies.

Research suggests garlic may constrict blood vessels, by reducing an enzyme called angiotensin much like an ACE inhibitor drug does to fight high blood pressure and soluble fiber supports healthy cholesterol levels by binding their particles and moving them out of the body before they are absorbed.

This is just a snapshot of the many heart health nutrients from which men can benefit. For more information about heart health supplements, see

Muscle Strength
While some men are looking for a leg up on increasing physical strength and muscle bulk, others are looking for ways to help prevent sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and functionality that begins as early as one’s 30s.

One option that may help muscle strength and size is creatine, a metabolite that is synthesized in the liver, kidneys and pancreas from three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. Once inside the body, it is converted into creatine phosphate and stored in the muscles for energy. Although there is still much debate about how creatine helps enhance athletic performance, two theories are creatine’s ability to increase the water content of muscle cells (i.e., intra-cellular water retention) and its ability to also enhance adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “during high-intensity, short-duration exercise, such as lifting weights or sprinting, phosphocreatine is converted into ATP,” which is then used by the muscles for rapid energy for muscle contraction (7).

Since the protein in our body is constantly recycled daily, adding a protein supplement to our diet may not only replace broken down protein in our muscles, but also maintain and build muscle mass. Typically, muscle mass is built when muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown (8). “Research also shows muscle protein turnover is the greatest after working out and muscle mass increases over time when exercising is combined with nutrient intake” (8). Protein sources such as egg, soy, casein and whey protein have all been shown to improve muscle building with regular exercise training, though whey protein “is beneficial in supporting muscle adaptations due to its rapid absorption rate in addition to casein that has a slower and more sustained rate of amino acid absorption over a few hours” (8). In one randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, involving a whey protein and a total of 161 men and women between 65 and 91 years old, participants gained lean body mass, strength and physical function increased.

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) have also been supported by research not only to help increase muscle function, but also to decrease muscle soreness and repair damaged muscles by increasing protein synthesis and deceasing protein breakdown in the muscles (9).

Prostate Care
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that wraps around the urethra in men. The prostate’s main job is adding semen to sperm and as men age, the gland can enlarge and cause benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition can cause pain and the inability to empty the bladder completely. Other potential prostate issues include prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate, and prostate cancer. Although herbal supplements have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for prostate care, herbs such as saw palmetto, pygeum and grass pollen have all been clinically studied, some with mixed reviews, to help support prostate health.

Saw palmetto, the most popular of the three herbs, was shown in a 2016 study published in Research and Reports in Urology to work in the same way and just as well as finasteride, a standard prescription drug used for treating enlarged prostate in men. In another small study, saw palmetto was effective for treating the urinary symptoms of BPH, however, another study found saw palmetto was no better than a placebo (10).

Pygeum (Pygeum africanum), an extract made from the bark of the Prunus Africana tree, is thought to help reduce swelling and relieve nighttime urination. In a study published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, pygeum was found to inhibit the “transactivation mediated by the ligand-activated human AR,” which controls the growth of the prostate gland (10).

Two small studies also found grass pollen to improve in those who suffer from BPH symptoms of nighttime urination better than a placebo (11).

Sexual Vitality
An estimated one in four men will experience some form of sexual health concern such as erectile dysfunction or low testosterone by age 65 (12). Several natural options may be helpful to men.

The root of the ginseng plant has traditionally been used to enhance vitality. Researchers believe ginseng helps with sexual performance because it helps the body produce more nitric oxide, which causes muscles in the corpus cavernosum to relax and absorb blood (13). While many animal studies exist, there are few human trials.

L-arginine, an essential amino acid, also converts into nitric acid and may be a boost to men’s vitality as well.

Men looking for energy-boosting and libido-enhancing actions may also want to try maca root. In one trial of 57 men between the ages of 21 and 56, patient were given either maca or a placebo, the results determined that the maca root was able to increase libido by mimicking testosterone and binding to androgen receptors (14).

Last, Tongkat ali has been found in studies to improve sexual desire and sexual attempts, as well as increase free testosterone levels in those consuming the herb (15). WF


  1. Texas Heart Institute, “Heart Disease Risk Factors,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  2. American Heart Association, “Coronary Artery Disease – Coronary Heart Disease,”—Coronary-Heart-Disease_UCM_436416_Article.jsp#.V7mu8IvFtBw, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  3. Harvard Health Publications, “Exercise and Aging: Can You Walk Away from Father Time?”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  4. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Coenzyme Q10,”
  5. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Omega-3 Fatty Acids,”
  6. J.L. Breslow, “n-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 83, S1477–1482 (2006).
  7. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Creatine,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  8. American College of Sports Medicine, “Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  9. E. Blomstrand, et al., “Branched-Chain Amino Acids Activate Key Enzymes In Protein Synthesis After Physical Exercise,” J. Nutr. 136 (1 Suppl), 269S-73S (2006).
  10. M. Papaioannou, et al., “The Natural Compound Ataraxic Acid Is In An Antagonist Of The Human Androgen Receptor Inhibiting Cellular Invasiveness and Prostate Cancer Cell Growth,” J. Cell Mol. Med. 13 (8B), 2210–2223 (2009).
  11. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  12. John Hopkins Medicine – Brady Urological Institute. “Men’s Health and Vitality,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  13. L.L. Murphy and T.J. Lee, “Ginseng, Sex Behavior, and Nitric Oxide,” Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 962, 372–377 (2002).
  14. D. Kiefer, “Natural Methods to Improve Vitality, Sexual Function, and Prostate Health,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.
  15. “LJ100 Tongkat Ali,”, accessed Aug. 25, 2016.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine October 2016