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Aphrodisiacs: How to eat your way to more nookie

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Stefan Gates Stefan Gates | 17:16 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011

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.

Alphabet spaghetti saying


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.


  • Comment number 1.

    Red wine, not too much and not too little. Round about 2 glasses when the world seems a much nicer place and you feel it has gotten a tad hot in the room. If you are sleepy then you have drank too much and should retire to bed and try again tomorrow night.

  • Comment number 2.

    I fed the boyfriend his fav meal roast pork with crackling, roast potatoes, yorkie puds and gravy followed by triple choc brownies :-)

  • Comment number 3.

    The real answer to 'what food floats your boat' is: not much. By which I mean if you eat rich food, stodgy food, or just TOO MUCH food, you will not be in the mood for sex. This is the mistake a lot of people make on Valentine's day, and it just leads to sleepiness and indigestion. If you must eat before you make love, my advice is to have something light and not too pungent (no garlic or spices). Fruit is good, because it makes your breath- and elsewhere- taste sweet. But if you want a really good Valentine's night, make love first, then have a late dinner.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi I don't think it is just about the food.It's about the whole atmosphere.The right man The right food The right music.The right setting. Having said that I never enjoy making love with a full stomach. I prefer a nibble first and a nibble after preferably with a glass of pink champagne xx

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks Stefan.

    Overall, nothing can boost your sex drive better than the combination of a good diet, regular exercise and emotional well-being but I wouldn't dismiss the use of stimulants out of hand, used occasionally and in careful moderation they can give you a kick you would never otherwise experience.

    Bremelanotide (aka PT-141) is legal and relatively safe but it definitely won't work for everyone and for some people it just makes them feel dizzy and nauseous for hours. If you want to try it, buy it only from a reputable supplier (and that means paying full price) who guarantee purity of over 99%. Don't use the nasal spray version, it is LESS safe than the sub-Q injection method. I know most people don't like needles but used correctly it is the safest method.

    Golden Root Complex is also legal and 100% herbal but I would urge caution, it is potent stuff and it can cause stiff neck, flushing and headaches. It's safe enough and has no nasty after-effects but don't try using a full dose first time.

    I am particularly annoyed by the current legislation against poppers; all chemical variations of poppers with the exception of Isopropyl Nitrite have effectively been outlawed since 2008. And can you guess what the cheapest, nastiest, dirtiest substance you can make poppers from is? Yep, isopropyl nitrite.

    Amyl nitrate (nitrate not nitrite) was - and still sometimes is - used medically for over 100 years during which time it was evidenced to cause no harm to the human body or brain. I have used amyl nitrate myself occasionally and I.P does not compare to it, plus the only bad effects I ever felt were to feel a bit pale and moochy the next day.

    So what happens? They ban a substance that was safe and replace it with a substance that is not. Alternatives to isopropyl nitrite are difficult to obtain and there are a number of bogus internet suppliers purporting to sell "genuine poppers" but actually supplying either I.P. or dangerous "bath tub" poppers.


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