But can food really improve libido or is is this all down to placebo?
Some research suggests that chocolate may promote the release of the chemicals phenylethylamine and serotonin which are thought to produce some aphrodisiac and mood-lifting effects.1
However, not all studies have been so positive. One study, in particular, looked at the effects of sexual function in women who consumed chocolate daily. The study found no significant differences in sexual arousal or desire in between those who consumed chocolate daily and those who did not.2
Due to the conflicting reviews, firm conclusions cannot be drawn on whether chocolate is an aphrodisiac.
Historically, there has been an association with alcohol and romance which is especially true when it comes to advertising. Reduced inhibitions is one of the most significant short term side effects that comes with alcohol consumption and can increase sexual behaviour.
However, in men, both short and long term alcohol consumption have shown in some studies to lower testosterone levels which can negatively affect sex drive. Since testosterone is a vital sex hormone involved in the sexual arousal and desire, alcohol consumption may have deleterious effects on male libido and sexual performance.3
In females, however, some studies suggest that alcohol consumption may increase sexual desire, arousal and pleasure, however may also lower physiological arousal.4 Despite this, the evidence of alcohol consumption in females and libido are mixed and whilst enjoying a glass or two is fine, binge drinking is linked to risky sexual behaviours such as unprotected sex.
In truth, many mistake alcohol as an aphrodisiac, but it’s more likely to be alcohol’s inhibition-lowering effects that are linked to increased sexual behaviour.
Oysters have long been dubbed as an aphrodisiac because they are an extremely rich source of zinc. In fact, just one oyster contains as much as half our daily recommended intake. Zinc is a critical mineral for the production of sperm and testosterone, therefore it would seem obvious to link oysters with increased sex drive.
Unfortunately, in reality, there aren’t many studies directly linking zinc to sexual health. One study did find that zinc supplementation increased testosterone production, the main hormone linked to sex drive, however, it had limited effects on helping to alleviate sexual dysfunction in men.5
In reality, there is limited research to suggest that supplementation with zinc may help to increase sex drive, but this doesn’t automatically mean that consumption of oysters will have the same effect. Therefore, if you’re not a fan, you may be pleased to hear that there’s no need to rush straight to the oyster bar!
Many claim that no other fruit inspires thoughts of sensuality like strawberries do. But what does the science say?
Strawberries are an extremely rich source of vitamin C. One study has shown that supplementing with vitamin C may help improve vascular function and increase oxytocin release, both of which are relevant to sexual behaviour and mood.6
But it’s important to note that this was one study, carried out 15 years ago on a small sample size and on an isolated nutrient. Therefore it’s too early to say whether strawberries can really be crowned the sexiest fruit.
Despite this, it’s important to choose foods which genuinely makes you feel good. Whether that’s strawberries dipped in chocolate or a glass of red wine, foods that put a smile on our face tend to be the sexiest foods!
What do we know affects sex drive?
- Manage stress - Stress, anxiety or exhaustion can play a key role in reducing libido.
- Support mood - Depression is a serious illness and can be all-encompassing. It can affect all aspects of life which include sex-drive.
- Balance hormones - As we age and go through menopause, falling levels of sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone can play a key role in reduced sex drive.
- Don’t over-do the alcohol - Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is directly linked to loss of sex drive.
- Afoakwa, E. O. (2008). Cocoa and chocolate consumption - are there aphrodisiac and other benefits for human health? : invited review. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 21 (3), 107-113. https://works.bepress.com/emmanueloheneafoakwa/90/
Salonia, A., Fabbri, F., Zanni, G., Scavini, M., Fantini, G. V., Briganti, A., Naspro, R., Parazzini, F., Gori, E., Rigatti, P. & Montorsi, F. (2006). Chocolate and women's sexual health: An intriguing correlation. The journal of sexual medicine, 3 (3), 476.
- Halpern-Felsher, B. L., Millstein, S. G. & Ellen, J. M. (1996). Relationship of alcohol use and risky sexual behaviour: A review and analysis of findings. Journal of Adolescent Health, 19 (5), 331-336. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7624547
- Beckman LJ & ., A. K. (1995). Women, alcohol, and sexuality.: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2006.00236.x/abstract
- Jalali GR, Roozbeh J, Mohammadzadeh A, Sharifian M, Sagheb MM, Hamidian Jahromi A, Shabani S, Ghaffarpasand F & ., A. R. (2010). Impact of oral zinc therapy on the level of sex hormones in male patients on hemodialysis. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 32 (4), 417-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20446777
- Brody, S. (2002). High-dose ascorbic acid increases intercourse frequency and improves mood: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Biological Psychiatry, 52 (4), 371-374. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8934293