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Menopause Health Center

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Good Food for Better Sex?

Are some foods better than others for fueling good sex? It could just be that a healthy diet is healthy for your sex life.

Myths and Truths continued...

Food science professional Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, encounters all sorts of theories about why certain edibles improve sex life, and sometimes she just has to laugh. She says it's true that some vitamins and nutrients have particular benefits, but too much of one thing can also have a negative effect on the body. Blueberries, for instance, have been touted as a good aid for improving blood flow to the genitals. Consuming too much of the fruit, however, can cause diarrhea.

Camire recommends a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a good attitude. "If you're having a nice meal and you're with a partner you like, that's all you need," she says. "It's as much in the mind as with anything else."

Barnaby Barratt, PhD, president-elect of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, couldn't agree more. He says a happy sex life ultimately depends upon ridding oneself of shame, guilt, anxiety, and inhibition. "Sex is first and foremost a psychological issue," he says. "Above and beyond that, things to do with food, diet, and so forth will be useful, but they're not going to provide magical answers."

Psychology is so powerful, notes Barratt, that for some people who believe in aphrodisiacs, specific foods may very well make them feel sexually alive and vigorous. Others may also find great pleasure in playing with food (such as licking whipped cream off of a partner's body) that it enhances the sexual experience.

The Sweet Smell of Sex

The mere scent of food and other items may be enough to sexually arouse men and women, according to research by Alan R. Hirsch, MD, FACP, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. Hirsch conducted two studies that measured men and women's reaction to different smells. One study measured blood flow to the penis, and the other to the vagina.

The results: Men appeared to be turned on most by a combination of smelling lavender and pumpkin pie, and women by Good and Plenty candy and cucumber.

There's no surefire explanation for the findings, says Hirsch, who theorizes that the favored smells may remind people of their childhoods. Such nostalgia can supposedly reduce anxiety and inhibitions, thereby increasing blood flow to the genitals.

Previous research has shown that smells are important in attraction, says Barratt, but those studies have mainly focused on people's scents. "Clearly, we do know that how people smell has an effect on the sexual desire of a partner," he says, noting that a body's scent has a lot to do with the person's diet.

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Reviewed on May 10, 2005

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