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September 16, 2011, last updated August 12, 2014

By A. Turner, Contributing Columnist

Most of us have heard the jokes about drinking and sex –
from “beer goggles” to less appropriate ways to describe
what happens when we drink and try (sometimes failing)
to copulate.  While these jokes cover every level of humor
and even contradict each other (sometimes the poke is
about alcohol stimulating libido, sometimes about its
compromising the function of necessary parts), they raise
an important question:  really, how does alcohol affect a
man’s erection?  And, to be more specific – and more
relevant to the average American male – how does the
consumption of
beer affect a man’s erection?

Scientists and lay people have been asking this question
for centuries.  Fast forwarding from the dawn of man,
woman and alcohol, to just a few decades ago in the
United States, we find a study by Dan Briddell with the Old
Dominion University in Virginia performed in the late
seventies.   One set of undergraduate male “social
drinkers” were given alcoholic beverages while another set
were given what they were told were alcoholic beverages,
but which were actually booze-free.  After the
consumption of drinks, Briddell and his team measured
“penile tumescence” (that is, enlargement of the penis) of
both sets: results showed that alcohol “significantly
influenced heart rate, skin temperature, and subjective
reports of sexual arousal.”

This might be something we didn’t need to find out
through scientific inquiry: a few drinks kicks in the mood.  
But what about four drinks?  Five?  A six pack?  Depending
on your life style, there may be some bad news: several
more recent studies connect alcohol with erectile

In 2004, experts from Italian Universities (including the
Universities of Napoli Federico II, Rome, Pisa and Milan),
found that the risk of ED was “significantly higher” for
men who consume more than three glasses a day of

In 2007 Bijil Simon Arackal and Vivek Benegal with the
National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in
Bangalore, India , tested men with alcohol dependence
syndrome, and concluded that 72% of them experienced
sexual dysfunction of some form, “the most common being
premature ejaculation, low sexual desire and erectile

A 2010 team of researchers from The University of Honk
Kong, Kwon Wah Hospital in Hong Kong, and The Family
Planning Association of Hong Kong looked at alcohol’s
effect on the erections of Chinese men.   

Their findings suggest that “three or more standard drinks
per week” impair erectile function and sexual satisfaction
(even more so in men who smoke).

What happened to the drinks in the late seventies that
“significantly influenced [the amorous] heart rate” of male
undergrads? It turns out that sexual arousal and success
is not improved or compromised because you drink, but
because of
how much you drink.  

The American Urological Association reports that “Alcohol
in small amounts improves erection and increases libido
because of its vasodilatory effect and the suppression of
anxiety; however, large amounts can cause central
sedation, decreased libido and transient erectile
dysfunction.” (Read more about
alcohol's effects on your
health, good and bad.)

Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to
swelling of your face. (Read more about c
auses of "moon"

The question thus becomes, how much is too much? The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in
the United States a “standard drink” of alcohol is
recognized as 13.7 grams or 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.  
In most cases, this amount is found in a 12 ounces of
beer, 5 ounces of wine, and a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor
(vodka, whiskey, rum, etc).   

In the United States, “moderate” drinking is considered to
be two drinks a day for men (one for women) – a number
that does not remain “moderate” if taken as an average  (i.
e. if you consume 14 drinks in one night it is not
considered moderate drinking for that week).

Excessive drinking (that which is more than “moderate”),
whether in the form of binge drinking or consistently
consuming more than two servings a day, can lead to
“decreased libido” as mentioned above by the American
Urological Association – but it can also lead to several
health problems later down the line, such as high blood
pressure and obesity, which, for men, are tightly
connected with erectile dysfunction.  

In 2005, Sally Squires, a Health and Nutrition Columnist
for The Washington Post, published the calorie content of
several alcoholic beverages .  One serving of beer adds on
150 calories, light beer gives 110 and dark beer 168.
(Similarly, one glass of red wine or a shot of vodka each
contribute around 100 calories).  While beer may not seem
unreasonable compared to some of the other options (a
mudslide packs in 820 calories!), it does not take too long
to do the math on the calories contained in your favorite

If you want to go the extra mile and focus on the kind of
beer as well as the quantity, you'll find that beer color and
type is complicated, so that it is difficult to warn against
general varieties of beer (dark, light, etc).  

Indeed, experts at the Titletown Brewing Company in
Green Bay, Wisconsin, insist that “the color of a beer and
its alcohol content are loosely related at best, and more
color does not indicate more alcohol.”  

This information is sometimes difficult to find on bottles –
especially the caloric content – but there are several online
resources. , for example, provides the
following information on 12 ounces of some of American’s
favorite brews:  

Budweiser is 5% alcohol, with 145 calories.

Bud Light is 4.2% alcohol, with 110 calories.

Coors is 4.91% alcohol, with 149 calories;

Coors Light is 4.15% alcohol, with 104 calories.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is 4.65% alcohol, with 144 calories.

New Belgium Fat Tire is 5.2% alcohol, with 160 calories;

New Belgium Sunshine Wheat is 4.8% alcohol, with 145

Again, a few beers does not erectile dysfunction make.  
But more than a couple brews with high alcohol and
caloric content a night, every night, might lead to diseases
that are linked to
erectile dysfunction.  

To prevent today’s beer from inhibiting tomorrow’s (or
next year’s, or next decade’s) sexual activity, consider
monitoring both how much alcohol you consume, and how
many calories are in your alcohol.    


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