Food and Libido

food-love“Candy is Dandy, But Liquor is Quicker,” snarked humorist Ogden Nash several decades ago. A nice dinner might be even more effective, according to some recent research.

All in all, it is hard to predict what researchers are going to think of to research. Recent research linked sexual desire to food consumption and was published in the journal Appetite, (a real, actual research journal). The effects of nutritional appetite on the sexual appetite of women were explored. How they did it is amazing. Well, amazing that it worked anyway, or at least seemed to. They divided women into two categories: those that diet and those that do not.

romantic-dinnerThey tested the women’s response to romantic pictures while doing an MRI. The MRI is the amazing part. Though painless, MRI’s are hardly unobtrusive. First, just being reclined on a moving bed and fed into a strange claustrophobic cylinder is menacing enough, but the noise! Most labs have the victim wear both earplugs and sound deadening earmuffs. Even with that, an MRI sounds like a dentist is drilling a hole through your skull with his slowest, dullest drill. All in all, it would be a stretch to regard this as much of a romantic setting.

Still in went the women, both the hungry and the sated. And once inside the scientific din, they were shown either a romantic picture (details not mentioned) or a neutral one. In spite of the racket and cramped quarters, the women that had eaten showed greater brain activity when the romantic picture was viewed than these same women in an earlier fasting state. The recently fed dieters had an even greater response. Now of course, though the MRI can see brain activity, it cannot determine what thoughts are actually going on, so just about any brain activity would have done. We suppose the response was a romantic one, but inside an MRI machine? Hard to imagine.

scientist-chemistry-experiment-lesson-professorResearch from a couple of years ago used other techniques to link sexual interest to food consumption. Certain foods and food combinations appear to be responsible. Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Gruss of the Smell and Taste Research Foundation in Chicago (there really is such a place) investigated whether smells aroused men. One study clearly showed a 40 percent increase in blood flow to a certain area of the body. Details of how this measurement was done are not available.

This same institute has identified several foods as notable in this category:

  • Lavender and pumpkin
  • Oranges
  • Colas
  • Buttered popcorn, (yum)
  • Vanilla

How about pheromones?

Pheromones are hormones that signal emotion. They are typically excreted on the skin. The emotion getting “transmitted” could be fear, or anger, or the one normally associated with pheromones: sexual interest. Or others. When they say that dogs can sense fear, they are most likely smelling it.

Communicating this way is very widespread. Insects use it too, even plants.

Most research studying pheromones uses goldfish, or fruit flies, or something equally exciting. There doesn’t seem to be any gadget that can measure it directly on skin.

You can buy the stuff apparently. Ebay has 22 listings, including an ink pen.

Does food increase pheromones? Given the number of romances that begin with a dinner, we would suppose so, but serious scientific evidence may be lacking.

Still the old saying that ‘an army marches on its stomach’ hardly adds romance to war. (By the way that quote has been attributed to both Napoleon Bonaparte and Fredrick the Great; take your pick.)

Bon appétit.

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