Do oysters increase your libido

Are Oysters really an aphrodisiac?

Pawel Malczewski
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Short answer

There are no studies that definitely show that oysters enhance libido. There are no ingredients in the oysters that have been proven to affect men’s or women’s libido.  Nevertheless, the possibility should not be excluded, since oysters contain micronutrients linked with a healthy reproductive system. More studies are needed. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

Aphrodisiac related subjects are quite popular in the media and have been appearing frequently. The news stories are usually dug up from the past, based on inconclusive studies or refer to new studies based on insufficient evidence to make definite conclusions.

Even if there are references to scientific studies, the media often tend to misinterpret the results or blow the conclusions out of proportion.

What does science say about oysters being aphrodisiacs?

Historical aspect
Oysters have been considered to be aphrodisiacs for thousands of years. However, there is still no scientific evidence of that effect. (1)Shamloul R. Natural aphrodisiacs. J Sex Med. 2010 Jan;7(1 Pt 1):39-49. Available here.

What started that myth was, most likely, the simple fact that oysters, just like other foods (avocado, bananas or figs) or objects (rhinoceros horn), resemble human genitalia, which in the past (or even now in some cultures) were believed to possess sexual powers. This myth started thousands of years ago when science was not yet involved. (2)Sandroni P. Aphrodisiacs past and present: a historical review. Clin Auton Res. 2001 Oct;11(5):303-7. Available here.

Sexual desire is not the same as increased fertility
The concept of having more sexual desire and performance is often confused with the concept of higher fertility or healthy sperm.

The fertility of males, for instance, can be improved by increasing the intake of certain minerals such as zinc. (3)Schlegel PN. Supplements to Enhance Male Fertility. Biennial Review of Infertility. Available here. Putting it simply, a man is more likely to become a father if he has healthy sperm.

However, there is no evidence that zinc makes men or women sexually more aroused.

Oysters contain a high level of zinc. Zinc together with other nutrients, such as vitamin B complex, selenium etc. play an important role in the male reproductive system, increasing sperm count and motility (ability to move efficiently) and enhancing hormone production. (4)Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Sellmeyer DE, Merriam RL, Morris RC Jr. Estimation of the net acid load of the diet of ancestral preagricultural Homo sapiens and their hominid ancestors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1308-16. Available here. (5)Strohle A, Hahn A, Sebastian A. Estimation of the diet-dependent net acid load in 229 worldwide historically studied hunter-gatherer societies. Am J Clin Nutr February 2010. vol. 91 no. 2 406-412. Available here. (6)Strohle A, Hahn A, Sebastian A. Latitude, local ecology, and hunter-gatherer dietary acid load: implications from evolutionary ecology. Am J Clin Nutr October 2010. vol. 92 no. 4 940-945. Available here.

This doesn’t prove, however, that the sexual desire or performance is improved by any of these nutrients.

Another hypothesis is that the reproductive system is stimulated by alkaloids or flavonoids obtained from oysters. (7)Rowland D, Tai W. A review of plant-derived and herbal approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunctions. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003 May-Jun;29(3):185-205. Available here. (8)Kassier SM, Veldman FJ. When science meets culture: the prevention and management of erectile dysfunction in the 21st century. S Afr J Clin Nutr: ISSN (Print): 1607-0658, ISSN (Web): 2221-1268. Available here.

Similarly, there is no evidence that these substances improve sex drive.

Conclusion

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Although there is not enough evidence that oysters (and many other foods believed to be aphrodisiacs) increase the libido in men, science still does not exclude that possibility. There might be more to these thousand year old beliefs than their shape. To reach more definite conclusions about increased sexual desire as a result of oysters and many other “aphrodisiac” foods, additional large studies are needed.

If you want to improve your fertility, however, oysters (and other zinc rich foods) may be helpful.

The scientific data on aphrodisiacs from natural sources in women is even more limited.

References   [ + ]

1. Shamloul R. Natural aphrodisiacs. J Sex Med. 2010 Jan;7(1 Pt 1):39-49. Available here.
2. Sandroni P. Aphrodisiacs past and present: a historical review. Clin Auton Res. 2001 Oct;11(5):303-7. Available here.
3. Schlegel PN. Supplements to Enhance Male Fertility. Biennial Review of Infertility. Available here.
4. Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Sellmeyer DE, Merriam RL, Morris RC Jr. Estimation of the net acid load of the diet of ancestral preagricultural Homo sapiens and their hominid ancestors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1308-16. Available here.
5. Strohle A, Hahn A, Sebastian A. Estimation of the diet-dependent net acid load in 229 worldwide historically studied hunter-gatherer societies. Am J Clin Nutr February 2010. vol. 91 no. 2 406-412. Available here.
6. Strohle A, Hahn A, Sebastian A. Latitude, local ecology, and hunter-gatherer dietary acid load: implications from evolutionary ecology. Am J Clin Nutr October 2010. vol. 92 no. 4 940-945. Available here.
7. Rowland D, Tai W. A review of plant-derived and herbal approaches to the treatment of sexual dysfunctions. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003 May-Jun;29(3):185-205. Available here.
8. Kassier SM, Veldman FJ. When science meets culture: the prevention and management of erectile dysfunction in the 21st century. S Afr J Clin Nutr: ISSN (Print): 1607-0658, ISSN (Web): 2221-1268. Available here.