Aphrodisiacs: How to eat your way to more nookie
Brace yourselves, good readers of the BBC website, for we are gathered here today to talk about sex. Not procreation or psycho-sexual nutrition or any other roundabout ways of avoiding good stuff. No. We are here to talk about lovely, warm, naughty lovemaking and how food can help you get more of it.
First the bad news: there are, despite excitable and often hilarious claims to the contrary, no foods have been reliably clinically proven to increase sexual desire. Whilst filming around the world I’ve been offered gorilla paw, rhino horn, dog stew and the testicles and penises of tigers, yaks, bulls and stags, all accompanied by cast-iron guarantees that they would get me a roll in the hay (useless considering that my wife was usually several thousand miles away). But it’s nonsense. Traders will make aphrodisiac claims for pretty much any food in order to make a profit.
Commercial nutritionists love sex. Gillian McKeith advises avocados and basil and sells Love Bites (they ‘feed love organs’ according to Amazon) with raw sprouting daikon seeds. However, the MHRA said that her horny goat weed complex and wild pink yam pills were ‘never legal for sale in the UK’. The controversial Patrick Holford advises ‘seven supplements for better sex’, but I declined to pay him £35 for the privilege of learning what they were.
Despite millions spent on research, Big Pharma has little to offer. Viagra isn’t an aphrodisiac but a cure for erectile dysfunction, Yohimbine can be used to treat impotence, but offers dizziness as well as sexual excitement. Alkyl nitrites (‘poppers’) can increase libido, but have a wide array of grim side-effects. Melanotan is reported to cause mild nausea, yawning and spontaneous erections in trials (not the best combination). Testosterone supplements can increase sexual desire, but only if you have low testosterone already. Bremelanotide is currently undergoing tests with mixed results, and saffron’s Crocin seems to be an aphrodisiac... for rats.
Food can also be an anti-aphrodisiac: Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for The Observer, told me “if you get the food right, all you'll want afterwards is to go to sleep with a gentle sigh of 'night darling”.
But now the good news: I’ve found a way of transcending these minor obstacles. Over the last six years I’ve run an ongoing survey of lovemaking to reverse-track the food-sex link. Instead of looking for a causal relationship, I ask people ‘What did you eat before you last made love?’ Clever, huh?
I’ve had over 800 responses so far and of course the results are utterly unreliable as they come from my friends and Twitter followers, many of whom are as weird as I am. Some of the answers were unprintably filthy, others clearly fantasy, but I won’t sully them with my opinions. Here’s what people said they ate before their last night of glorious lovemaking (updated 13th Jan 2011):
1. 14% A meal with lots of alcohol (not condoned by the BBC)
2. 10% Take-away meal
3. 9% Expensive meal
4. 8% Curry
5. 6% Chocolate
6. 5% Fish
7. 5% A light meal
8. 3% A meal cooked by a male partner
9. 2% Oysters
10. 0.5% Meal at wedding (successful fertility rather than unadulterated pleasure?)
(The remaining 37.5% were pretty random eg ‘lunch’, ‘strawberries’, ‘a banana’, or my favourite: ‘Toffos and a can of Quattro.’)
Incidentally, here’s mine: a quarter of a game pie, a goats’ cheese tart, masses of fruit and a bottle of non-alcoholic citrus brew, eaten on our laps whilst watching The King’s Speech. And no, we didn’t make love at the cinema. There are laws about that sort of thing.
I want 1000 responses before I stop researching, so please don’t be shy. What food floats your boat?
Stefan Gates is a BBC presenter and food writer.