As if you needed convincing to spend some time in the sun. A new study suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for erectile dysfunction (ED) based on several related diseases.

Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for an intricate web of diseases. Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome are just a few diseases where vitamin D deficiency may play a role, either as a way to prevent or to treat.

ED comes with its own risk factors. Men suffering from ED are at greater risk of developing many of the same diseases as men with vitamin D deficiency. Men with asthma, depression, fractures, skeletal diseases such as multiple sclerosis and gum disease are at a higher risk for developing ED and vitamin D deficiency also plays a role in these diseases as well.

Because of the interconnected skeletal and cardiovascular disease risk, researchers believe vitamin D deficiency may be an important risk factor because of overlapping diseases including multiple sclerosis, asthma and metabolic syndrome which is a combination of diseases that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In a study examining cases of cardiovascular disease and ED, led by Marc Sorenson, EdD, from the Sunlight Institute in Utah and William B. Grant, PhD, director of Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center in San Francisco, researchers discovered the many risk factors at play for cardiovascular disease also increased the risk of ED.

Blood flow problems and diseases affecting circulation are the cause of nearly half of all ED cases, according to researchers. ED is also an important early indicator of potential asymptomatic, showing no signs, cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D may play a role in maintaining vascular health, note researchers, which could lower the risk of ED.

Vitamin D may help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and reduce the hardening of vascular tissue and in turn reduce cardiovascular risks as well as reducing risks for ED. Based on the multiple links between cardiovascular disease, ED and vitamin D, researchers hope to conduct future observational and population-based studies examining the role of vitamin D in ED.

More importantly, the researchers urge patients and doctors to not just treat the symptom of ED but also be aware of the cardiovascular risks associated with ED. Instead of just getting medication to get an erection, patients should also be checked for cardiovascular diseases and be encouraged to exercise more, make healthy diet choices and if they smoke, to quit.

Vitamin D is easy enough to get. A few minutes of exposure, without sunscreen, to sunlight a day can help get the vitamin D you need. Fish and fortified dairy products also are sources of vitamin D and oral supplements are also available.

The study was published in Dermato-Endocrinology.