(CBS News) Large waists not only affect heart health and diabetes risk, it can negatively impact sexual and urinary health in men.
A new study published in the August 2012 issue of the British Journal of Urology International (BJUI) showed that men with larger waist lines who were experiencing lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) had more sexual problems.
"The findings demonstrate that obesity in men -- part of a growing global epidemic -- affects their well-being in profound ways," Dr. Steven A. Kaplan, the E. Darracott Vaughan Jr. professor of Urology at Weill Cornell Medical College, director of the Iris Cantor Men's Health Center and chief of the Institute for Bladder and Prostate Health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, said in the press release. He was the senior investigator on the study.
The researchers looked at 409 men diagnosed with LUTS who were between 40 to 91. LUTS symptoms, which can be caused by a variety of reasons, include difficulty urinating that results in increased frequency during the day and night and the need to urinate after you have just urinated, according to the U.K.'s National Health Services. LUTS sufferers also experience symptoms in which their urinary stream may be weak or intermittent.
The subjects were then divided into groups by their waist circumference: 37.5 percent had a waist circumference of less than 36 inches, 33.5 percent of men had waists that were between 36-40 inches, and 29 percent of the men had waists greater than 40 inches.
Reducing waist circumference by 2.5 inches was tied to significant improvements for patients in the areas of sexual and urinary health, the researchers found.
The team discovered that men who had the largest waist size were more likely to urinate frequently. Thirty nine percent of men in the largest group urinated more than eight times in 24 hours, compared to 27 percent in the middle group and 16 percent in the smallest-waist group. Nighttime urination also increased with waist circumference, with 44 percent of men in the large group urinating more than twice at night, compared to 29 percent of the middle group and 15 percent of the smallest group.
When it came to sexual health, 74.5 percent of the men in the largest-waist group said they experienced erectile dysfunction, compared to 50 and 32 percent of the medium and smallest groups respectively. Ejaculation problems were reported at a 65 percent rate in the largest group, and only occurred in 40 percent of the medium-sized waist group and 21 percent in the smaller sized waist group.
While researchers don't know why different waist sizes affect sexual and urinary health, Kaplan hypothesizes that it may have to do with blood flow to the pelvis and hormone changes caused by obesity. The researchers also looked at other variables related to obesity in the subjects. High blood pressure, cholesterol, coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes were detected more often in the men with larger waist sizes.
"We now have an expanded understanding of how obesity can impact the health of men, and a simple way to recognize which men might be affected in these ways," Dr. Kaplan said. "This adds even more importance to the recommendation that men should maintain a healthy weight for their overall well-being."
Larger waists have also been known to create other health problems as well, including increasing a person's risk from dying of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease according to the American Cancer Society. Overweight people with large waists have also been shown as obese people.
"We have to think of the body in a much more holistic way. What we eat can have devastating consequences on more than just our hearts," Kaplan said. "Quality of life issues, such as sexual and voiding health, can be affected as well in drastic ways."