Food & Drink, News

Do aphrodisiacs really work? Research says it could just be placebo

Thinking of cracking open the oysters this Valentine’s Day? You might want to rethink your plans.

Research has shown that the effects of food on peoples’ sexual desire could just be placebo and that a lot of it comes from myths and folklore.

It showed that although foods like oysters and chocolate are commonly known to be aphrodisiacs, the science doesn’t tell us much about how it actually increases sexual desire.

In fact, they are more likely to improve fertility and reproduction than actually make people want to have sex.

For example, oysters are high in zinc, which can increase the secretion of vaginal lubricant, as well as increasing testosterone – and therefore sperm – production.

Saffron is said to help build stamina and promote serenity – things that could improve sexual performance and enjoyment, but not necessarily sexual desire.

Certain animal parts have also historically been consumed to improve fertility and sexual performance, with a restaurant in China serving dishes based around animal penises and testicles for ten years, to help men in search of virile rejuvenation.

History, folklore and myths also play a big part in certain foods gaining their aphrodisiac status.

Aphrodite was the origin of many aphrodisiacs, such as, oysters, pomegranates and strawberries, with each food being linked to an event in her life.

Onions have been mentioned in several Hindu texts around the art of making love and were used as an aphrodisiac in ancient Greece. In the famous The Perfumed Garden, a sixteenth century Arabian erotic manual, a testimony to onions is attributed as a powerful aphrodisiac.
Truffles were well known to the Romans as a powerful aphrodisiac. However, with the fall of the Roman Empire, the magic properties of truffles fell into oblivion and were only rediscovered in the late eighteenth century.

Stelios Kiosses, a lecturer and course lead in culinary psychology at Harvard Extension School has spent years undertaking research around the affects that food has on our brain.

He says that the affects that foods that are perceived as aphrodisiacs could be down to the placebo effect.

He said: “Food and sex essentially share the same part of the brain, which lights up during taste perception and orgasms. Dopamine is released during an orgasm – the same chemical that is released when we eat chocolate. Foods and the act of eating can suggest sex to the mind, which in turn can help stimulate desire in the body.

“Much of our sexuality is psychological in nature, perhaps these foods did what they were supposed to even by simply suggesting eating an aphrodisiac might create a placebo effect.”

You may also like...