Oysters Really Do Make You Horny!

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Last weekend I went up the coast to Morro Bay, CA with my sweetie for my birthday getaway. It is my yearly tradition to head up for the weekend, partially to get away and hang out with sea lions and if I am lucky, sea otters, but primarily it is to eat as many oysters as I can in one weekend. Oysters have always been the ultimate sensual food for me. It is the combination of their fabulous silky texture as they slip-n-slide around my mouth, the briny, salty-sweet taste as I bite down on them, and how they glide effortlessly down my throat. Pure gastronomical heaven. Plus, they farm them right off the coast of Morro Bay and it is perhaps the only place in California where you can get a dozen for under $12! Now, this was my first trip with my gorgeously handsome sweetie and it made me wonder, have they found any scientific evidence that oysters are a natural aphrodisiac? I mean I do know personally that the combination of oysters and my sweetie truly do make parts of me tingle in that deliciously happy way, but is there any scientific proof of the quivering that goes on in my parts? Is there any truth to the claim that oysters boost libido? Certainly, in my personal non-scientific study on the molluscs, I clearly feel more sexy eating oysters, but do they actually make me more sexy?

I did some digging on Google Scholar, my go-to quickie science fix and happily, I found a few studies to back the age-old claim. But first, let’s take a step back in time and discuss where this legend came from. It all began in and around 750 BC, when Hesiod, a Greek poet, tried to explain the origins of life and human behavior. According to Hesiod, Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven) were unhappily married with very ugly children who had multiple heads and arms and third eyeballs and such. So Uranus locked away his hideous offspring in the nearest cave and tried to forget their existence by banging Gaia repeatedly to try and finally get it right. Gaia, sore and pissed off, called upon Kronus, a god of time, to come and lob off the Uranus’ balls and cast them into the ocean. The discarded gonads thus transformed into the delicious sea treat known today as the oyster. Not only that, sexy goddess Aphrodite was born on top of a bed of delicious oysters along with love god Eros so they could infect the world with mad sexual desire.

Since the story’s inception, westerners have connected oysters with sexual prowess among men. Purportedly, Cassanova, the 18th century Wilt Chamberlain, used to eat 50 raw oysters every morning to boost his already rock-solid er…libido. His account and other similar claims of oyster-fueled sex-capades led to the proverb: ‘Eat fish, live longer. Eat oysters, love longer’. Proverbs, myths, and legends aside, I have always wondered if there was any truth, however flimsy, to the claims.

Well, according to a study by George Fisher, a professor of chemistry at Barry University, Miami, and Raul Mirza and Antimo D’Aniello, of the Laboratory of Neurobiology in Naples, there is. The particular group of bivalve molluscs that oysters belong to happen to contain a rare form of amino acids that trigger an increase in the level of sex hormones in humans.

How did they conduct this study, and how can I become a willing and able participant, you wonder? Well, Dr. Fisher and his research team purchased samples of bivalve molluscs, including species of mussels and clams, from local fish markets near Dr. D’Aniello’s Naples laboratory. They then used high-performance liquid chromatography to identify which amino acids were present in the samples and in what quantities. They then discovered two unusual amino acid types – D-aspartic acid (D-Asp) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). These two types of amino acids are not regularly found in most foods. In an earlier study, Dr. D’Aniello had found that injecting these amino acids into rats triggered a chain reaction of hormones that ended with the production of estrogen in females and testosterone in males. Both hormones increase sexual activity. I am still waiting for the human trials. I emailed them to make sure I was first on the list. Kidding.

So, they do make me, us, you more horny. They also contain dopamine, a neurotransmitter that releases “feel good” hormones into the brain, and zinc, which increase levels of testosterone. I don’t know if I really needed a study to confirm this or not, but I guess there is some comfort knowing that there is some science to back up what I already knew. And, if you are wondering, I had a really fun and tingly weekend with my sweetie. Plus I just found out there is an oyster festival in Morro Bay October. I am booking my hotel today!

References

Chase, D. “Oysters as an Aphrodisiac: Myths and Evidence.”  Yahoo Voices. 7 Sept, 2010. 13 Aug 2013.

D’Aniello G, Tolino A, D’Aniello A, Errico F, Fisher GH, Di Fiore MM. (2000) The role of D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartic acid in the regulation of prolactin release. Endocrinology, 141(10):3862-70.

D’Aniello G, Fisher G., Topo E., Ferrandino G., Garcia-Fernàndez J., D’Aniello A., (2007)N-Methyl-D-aspartic Acid (NMDA) in the nervous system of the amphioxus Branchiostoma lanceolatum. BMC Neuroscience 8:109 doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-109.

Hourigan A. “Are oysters an aphrodisiac?” ABC Health and Wellbeing. 24 Sept 2009. 13 Aug 2013.

Lusher, A. “Raw oysters really are aphrodisiacs say scientists (and now is the time to eat them)”. The Telegraph. 20 Mar 2005. 13 Aug 2013.

Shamloul, R. (2010), Natural Aphrodisiacs. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7: 39–49. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01521.x

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