Many supplement manufacturers claim that the amino acid D-aspartic acid can improve erectile dysfunction, usually by increasing testosterone levels. Some research supports this claim, but the science on the benefits of D-aspartic acid is not conclusive.
While D-aspartic acid (DAA) may have some use in treating ED, other treatments are more likely to work. Furthermore, doctors do not know the potential side effects or long-term consequences of taking DAA.
Keep reading to learn more.
DAA is an amino acid that is present in the central nervous system and reproductive system.
Research in both animals and humans suggests that it plays a role in the development of the nervous system and may help regulate hormones. This second function could mean that DAA regulates levels of testosterone and other hormones that affect sexual function.
While there are studies showing that DAA may raise testosterone levels, some recent research calls this claim into question.
Proponents of DAA as an ED treatment argue that it can increase testosterone levels, thereby treating ED. However, the relationship between ED and testosterone is not clear, and many people with normal testosterone levels still have ED.
Most people with ED experience decreased blood flow to the penis, often due to cardiovascular health issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Testosterone will not treat these conditions.
Increasing testosterone may be helpful for people with low testosterone levels. However, even in this population, there is only limited evidence that DAA works.
D-aspartic acid and testosterone
The findings of studies looking at DAA and testosterone have not been consistent.
A 2017 trial compared a group of 11 male athletes who received DAA supplements with 11 who did not. Both groups participated in 3 months of resistance training. At the end of the study, the DAA group did not have statistically significant increases in testosterone levels or strength.
An earlier study analyzed the role of DAA in both humans and rats. A group of 23 men took daily DAA supplements for 12 days, while 20 others took a placebo. Additionally, 10 rats received either DAA supplements or a placebo for the same length of time. In both humans and rats, the DAA supplement group showed increased synthesis and release of testosterone.
Even earlier data from a study in rats suggest that injecting DAA into the hypothalamus might induce an erection. However, no studies have tested a similar claim in people, and DAA supplements that a person takes orally might not have the same effects as those that a doctor injects.
A 2017 review, in which the authors examined 23 human studies and four animal studies, provides the strongest evidence that DAA may increase testosterone. Most of the included research suggests that DAA may either act on Leydig cells in the testes, which release testosterone, or change behavior in the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, instructing the testes to secrete testosterone.
The authors caution that more research on the role of DAA is necessary before scientists can draw clear or specific conclusions.
Little research has tested the safety of DAA or assessed whether it is safe to use alongside other supplements or medications. People considering this supplement should talk to a doctor first, particularly if they take other drugs.
As with any drug, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to DAA. In rare cases, allergic reactions can be life threatening.
Researchers do not yet know the long-term effects of taking DAA, so the safety of prolonged use is unclear.
People who wish to take DAA should not let it delay them getting medical treatment for ED. In cases where an underlying medical condition is causing ED, treatment for this condition is likely essential for symptoms to improve.
Although DAA might improve symptoms of ED, the evidence supporting other strategies is stronger. These options include:
- Testosterone injections: People with low testosterone may be better able to get or sustain an erection with testosterone treatment. However, increasing the levels of this hormone may not improve ED.
- ED drugs: These drugs help increase blood flow to the penis and are safe and effective for most people. Some examples of ED drugs include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), avanafil (Stendra), and vardenafil (Levitra). A doctor can offer advice on which drug to try and provide a prescription.
- Medical devices: A wide range of devices can help a person get an erection. A penis pump, for example, is safe to use at home and pulls blood into the penis to make it erect.
- Surgery: Rarely, people with certain pelvic or vascular injuries may need surgery to ensure that the blood flow to the penis is adequate.
- Counseling and mental health support: Depression, anxiety, and relationship issues may contribute to ED. Mental health support, such as therapy, couples counseling, and antidepressants, may ease the symptoms. Some antidepressants can cause sexual side effects, so it is important to talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits of treatment.
- Treating the underlying cause: Most ED treatments focus on helping a person get an erection, but when a chronic medical condition causes ED, it is important to treat that condition, too. Managing diabetes, heart disease, or prostate conditions may improve sexual function. If a medication is contributing to ED, a person can ask their doctor about switching to a different medication.
- Lifestyle changes: An unhealthful lifestyle may cause ED directly or increase the risk of medical conditions that cause it. Getting more exercise, quitting smoking, and maintaining a moderate body weight may improve symptoms.
Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, particularly when medication does not work, or a person is unwilling to seek treatment.
While scientists do not consider D-aspartic acid to be harmful, more research is necessary to assess people’s long-term response to the medication. Furthermore, better and more thoroughly tested treatments are available.
People considering supplements should talk to a doctor. In some cases, a supplement may work best when a person takes it alongside other treatments and remedies, such as ED medications or lifestyle changes.