Men, Oysters and Sex

The eating of an oyster is a tale of seduction. Crack open its rocklike shell at its most fragile point and it gives easily, revealing the delicate tissue at its heart. Eat it raw and it tastes of the soul of the ocean that made it. To many, it’s food pornography. An aphrodisiac.

But oysters don’t make you a sex machine. It’s just a myth. There is simply no scientific evidence that these tender sea dumplings help maintain erections, improve stamina, or enhance arousal. (They may make you think about sex, which is as good an aphrodisiac as any.)

However, because oysters support a healthy body, they also support a healthy sex drive. They are good sources of vitamin D, copper, magnesium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.

Along with being a protein source, oysters are rich in zinc, a deficiency of which can cause impotence. Zinc is a necessary building block for testosterone, so it supports a healthy libido and sperm production. Zinc also helps to amplify production of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter for the way in which we experience pleasure. More dopamine may lead to heightened sexual arousal. But zinc is common enough in other foods, such as chicken and turkey, and no one considers poultry an aphrodisiac.

In rat studies, oyster extracts lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, but changes in mating patterns have not been investigated. And at least one human clinical trial reports an improvement in cholesterol in healthy men with an oyster-rich diet. However, like in the rat study, sexual activity and performance were not examined.

The oyster myth is certainly a prevalent one. Oyster sales do increase around Valentine’s Day and oyster bars are a popular destination for dates. Clearly, the lack of scientific evidence has done little to quell this myth.

That said, oysters contain something that can’t be scientifically quantified: romance. And that’s a vitamin for the soul as well as the body. If you and your partner find it arousing to slurp down oysters, then there’s your aphrodisiac. End of story. No science needed, thank you.