PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recently stirred up a long-standing debate over whether or not diet actually does play a role in our sex life with their controversial (as if they'd do anything but) BWVAKTBOOM ad. The absurdly long anagram stands for "Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom Out of Me," which is meant to describe a fictitious syndrome wherein men who go vegan become insatiably enthusiastic lovers often incapable of controlling their passion and causing injuries like whiplash, dislocated hips and of course, rug burn. While many factors dictate a person's sexual behavior and performance ability beyond diet, there's no doubt that what we eat plays a role, but just how much? And does whether or not you eat meat really make a difference?
Even more intimate than sex is the act of eating. We do it more often (hopefully), and food actually becomes us (in a way only a good lover could hope to). More and more research points to the benefits of eating a fresh, well balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, from disease prevention to enhanced cognitive function. And, PETA's not all shock and awe with BWVAKTBOOM, either. The amino acid L-Arginine, which is found in oats, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, root vegetables and beans including soy and chickpeas, has been shown to improve sexual function for men.
The vascular effects of high cholesterol—which affects more than 120 million Americans—are not just limited to the heart, either. According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, both men and women can experience diminished blood flow to the penis, clitoris and vulva, due to constricted blood vessels, making sexual activity both difficult and less satisfying.
But do vegans really have better sex than meat eaters? According to PETA, vegetarians are healthier, slimmer and therefore more likely to have a more active and fulfilling sex life than non-vegetarians. Research conducted by the well-known heart doctor and author Dr. Dean Ornish supports PETA's claim, as individuals following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet rich in fruits and vegetables scored higher in relevant health and fitness than meat-eaters.
Foodborne illnesses, such as Salmonella and e coli—most commonly a result of infected meat or dairy products—affect millions of Americans each year, with symptoms often appearing so similar to that of mild stomach flu that they go unreported (but certainly not unfelt by the victims). While there's virtually no research on the connection between food poisoning and sexual function, vegetarians are less likely to be exposed to these types of illnesses and the ensuing downtime, thus less likely to experience disrupted sexual (or any other) activity.
But, the food/sex debate isn't simply a vegan versus meat-eater discussion. Foods loaded with trans fats, sodium, processed sugars and behavior altering chemical preservatives, colors, stabilizers and flavors, have also been shown to have negative effects on our energy levels, weight, concentration and circulation—all necessary for a healthy sex drive and performance.
"Not tonight, Honey, I have a headache," may actually be attributable to exposure to pesticides, which are routinely applied to non-organic crops, and have also been connected to hormone imbalances which affect sexual desire as well as function (including fertility). They're connected with birth defects, too, and may cause nerve damage, which for some, could reduce or eliminate sexual ability and interest.
If there is an optimal diet for a most-satisfying, healthy sex life, research indicates the same prescription as for a generally healthy life: more fresh foods, most of them plant-based (and organic whenever possible) and less highly processed foodlike stuffs with excessive amounts of sugar, salt or fat.
As for BWVAKTBOOM's claim, there's no research indicating that eating a peach or a stalk of celery makes anyone incapable of self-control or being a compassionate watch-the-headboard lover. But, vegan or not, if you're having a healthy sex life, do be careful to avoid the rug burn (it really stings!).
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