People’s Pharmacy reader swears that red vegetable boosts sex life.

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Q. Using beets to increase nitric oxide in the blood for 24 hours before using Viagra will make the little blue pill work better. Eating beets or drinking beet juice a couple of times the day before the event makes a huge difference.

We went from giving up because even a pump didn’t help to “oh, my word!” if you get my drift. My husband also takes L-citrulline and L-arginine that same day for an extra boost, but the key is the beet juice. We are in our late 70s.

You can buy beet juice at any natural-food store. Even if the ED pills don’t seem to work for you, this could make a big difference. It might even give you natural performance back if you drink beet juice daily. It takes a couple of months to build up the nitric oxide in the bloodstream to the point of having really good results, but it is worth the effort.

A. Thank you for your intriguing suggestion. Sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) work by blocking an enzyme (PDE5) that breaks down a compound called cGMP. Nitric oxide also leads to higher levels of cGMP. This dilates blood vessels in the penis and facilitates increased blood flow.

Foods like beets or dark chocolate also enhance nitric-oxide formation. Studies have found that beet juice improves flexibility of the lining of blood vessels and lowers blood pressure (Nutrients, April 2015).

Although there are no studies to suggest that beets or juice can improve the effectiveness of sildenafil, your personal experiments are fascinating. One small study evaluated a formulation containing Pycnogenol, L-arginine and L-citrulline and found it seemed to work better than placebo for erectile dysfunction (Minerva Urologica e Nefrologica, March 2015).

Q. Could you please comment about the news report pertaining to calcium supplements? The study showed that calcium did not help older people’s bones and that it could actually be harmful, with side effects like heart attacks.

Now I am afraid to take my 1,500 mg of calcium with vitamin D per day and have cut the dose down to 500 mg of calcium a day. Am I doing the right thing? I am female, age 73.

A. You have mentioned a source of great confusion for many people. For years, doctors have been urging older people (especially women) to take high doses of calcium (1,200 mg/day) to prevent bone loss and avoid fractures.

The only problem with that recommendation is that it was based on theory. When scientists reviewed studies of calcium intake and the risk of bone fracture, they found no association between the two. They concluded that “there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures. Evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent.” (BMJ online, Sept. 29, 2015).

Calcium supplements have some downsides. Too much calcium can increase the chance of kidney stones (New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 16, 2006). In addition, people who take calcium supplements are at a greater risk of heart attack (BMJ online, July 29, 2010).

If you would like to learn more about the pros and cons of calcium supplements and other ways to reduce the possibility of osteoporosis, you may wish to listen to our interview with Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health and Michael Castleman, co-author of “Building Bone Vitality.” An MP3 of show No. 752 can be downloaded from for $2.99.