Oysters are a type of shellfish that many may consider a delicacy. Others may also consider them to be an aphrodisiac, or food that boosts sexual arousal. Although scientists have not proven their effects on libido, oysters contain several compounds that may improve sexual performance or desire.

Oysters are bivalve mollusks that are highly nutritious and may provide some health benefits. There is a long history of people associating oysters with desire. Notably, the 18th-century Italian author Giacomo Casanova reportedly ate large amounts of oysters due to their potential stimulating properties.

However, some controversy remains as to whether oysters are an aphrodisiac. While they may contain nutrients, such as zinc, that play a role in sexual function, consuming oysters are unlikely to specifically influence a person’s sex drive.

A person may be able to achieve a similar effect from a healthy, diverse, and nutrient-rich diet, which can include oysters.

This article will discuss what aphrodisiacs are, whether oysters are one, and their potential impact on libido and sexual performance.

An aphrodisiac typically refers to a food or drug that arouses sexual desire.

The term originated from the Latin name aphrodisiaca, which 17th-century medics used to describe a new category of pharmacological substances. A 2020 review comments that the medical profession has largely discredited aphrodisiacs since the late 1800s.

However, by exchanging information about aphrodisiacs between the 16th and 19th centuries, people worldwide improved their medical understanding of sex.

An older review classifies aphrodisiacs into three types according to their mode of action: those that increase libido, potency, or sexual pleasure. The review explains that aphrodisiacs can work by several mechanisms:

  • enhancing nitrous oxide to stimulate blood flow in the penis
  • increasing hormones such as testosterone
  • stimulating nerves involved in sexual pleasure

The Code of Federal Regulations defines aphrodisiac drug products as those that claim to increase someone’s sexual desire, arousal, or performance. However, they advise that over-the-counter drugs containing aphrodisiac ingredients are not generally safe or effective based on current evidence.

People may take aphrodisiacs as tablets, foods, or extracts originating from plants or animals. If people consume excessive quantities of aphrodisiac foods or purchase herbal products or drugs claiming to be aphrodisiacs, there may be a risk to their health.

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may not have approved some products.

Oysters are saltwater mollusks that people eat as seafood. They contain or support the production of nutrients and compounds that may improve sexual performance, desire, or arousal. These may include:

Zinc

One reason that people may associate oysters with sexual performance is a result of their zinc content. A single oyster contains 5.5 milligrams (mg) of zinc, which is half of the recommended daily amount for adult males and more than half for adult females.

Some research indicates that zinc is essential for preserving sexual health and testosterone levels. Additionally, it may positively affect fertility.

While many people associate testosterone with male sex drive, some evidence also suggests that small amounts of testosterone may positively influence female sex drive.

D-aspartic acid

Oysters also contain D-aspartic acid, which is an amino acid that may have a role in boosting testosterone production. As such, it may play a similar role as zinc in boosting sexual arousal.

Dopamine

Research indicates that zinc may also help to support levels of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that studies suggest is involved in sexual behavior.

Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. According to research, it may improve erectile dysfunction in males and sexual response in females.

However, no studies directly measure the effect of zinc, D-aspartic acid, or dopamine from oysters on libido. Therefore, their aphrodisiac effects are inconclusive.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Seafood, such as oysters, is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some research suggests that omega-3s may help to improve sexual performance.

Scientists have studied the effects of omega-3 on the heart and cardiovascular system. For example, a 2020 review concluded that there is some evidence that these beneficial fats may help prevent heart disease.

It also adds that omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and improve vascular endothelial function, which controls blood flow in the blood vessels. As such, they could theoretically improve blood flow to the genitals.

Using a rat model of erectile dysfunction, a 2016 study found that omega-3 fatty acids lowered oxidative stress, reducing the muscle cell and blood vessel damage in the penis, which restricts blood flow.

Additionally, a 2017 study suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids may protect against erectile dysfunction that occurs as a complication of diabetes.

Although studies do not demonstrate that omega-3 fatty acids in oysters directly boost libido, they may improve sexual performance, which could have an aphrodisiac effect in some people.

An older review suggests that herbal aphrodisiacs may be an alternative to pharmacological drugs for some individuals. While more research is still necessary, some research supports the following plant-based compounds as possible aphrodisiacs:

People must be aware that the FDA does not regulate some herbal aphrodisiac products or test them for safety.

There is also a risk of contamination when eating raw shellfish, such as oysters. The FDA advises that people choose oysters with closed shells that smell fresh.

People cook oysters by boiling them live, during which their shells open. Failure to cook them correctly or to use fresh oysters can result in food poisoning or even death.

While some people want to lower their intake of foods high in mercury, the FDA explains that oysters are one of the best choices of fish to eat with lower mercury levels, and people can eat 2–3 servings per week.

Aphrodisiacs typically refer to foods that boost sexual arousal. While many people may consider oysters an aphrodisiac, there is a scarcity of research to support this.

However, oysters do contain nutrients, such as zinc, which may help to benefit sexual performance. While many products may claim to be an aphrodisiac, the FDA may not regulate these items, meaning they may be unsafe.

Although more research is necessary to if oysters can boost libido, they are a good source of nutrition and possibly health benefits that people can include in their diet.

However, it is not advisable for people to consume raw oysters, as they are a health risk.

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