March 16, 2005 -- Oysters' reputation as an aphrodisiac is legendary, but now researchers say they may have found scientific evidence to back up those claims.
A team of American and Italian researchers has found evidence that at least four varieties of bivalve mollusks -- a seafood category that includes oysters, mussels, and clams -- contain two compounds that trigger a surge of sex hormones.
The compounds, known as D-aspartic acid (D-Asp) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) have been shown in animal studies to stimulate the release of hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, which are involved in sexual arousal and activity.
The results of the study were presented this week at the American Chemical Society Meeting in San Diego.
In the study, researchers analyzed the chemical composition of tissue samples taken from different types of mollusks commonly eaten in Mediterranean countries.
The tests showed D-Asp and NMDA were present in three varieties of clams and a Mediterranean mussel variety.
Researchers say that since previous studies have established a correlation between these two compounds and testosterone, estrogen, and sexual activity, it's plausible that the presence of D-asp and NMDA in these mollusks could explain much-heralded aphrodisiacal properties of mollusks.
Although the most famous romance-inducing mollusks -- oysters -- weren't specifically tested in the study, researchers say the results may also apply to other varieties of mollusks. But further study will be required to confirm that.