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Monday’s medical myth: eating oysters makes you randy

The stuff of romance novels or a secret tool to give you a boost in the bedroom? We start the year by examining the truth about oysters. Holly gazed around in awe. Rory had brought her to a tiny waterfront…

Oysters can still play an important role in romance, even though they aren’t an aphrodisiac. Stephen Coles

The stuff of romance novels or a secret tool to give you a boost in the bedroom? We start the year by examining the truth about oysters.

Holly gazed around in awe. Rory had brought her to a tiny waterfront restaurant. From the table on the jetty she watched the setting sun sparkle across the bay and reflect off Rory’s chocolate brown eyes.

“I hope you like oysters, Holly. I took the liberty of ordering us three dozen with samples of the chef’s special toppings. This restaurant is famous for their delicious oysters.”

Holly sighed. Although she had known Rory for a while, this was their first date and very romantic. “Remember, first date, home alone by midnight,” she murmured, more as a reminder to herself. But, oysters! Heavens, weren’t they supposed to be an aphrodisiac?

Does Holly withstand the oyster’s reputation for inspiring passion? Or will they make her abandon caution and leap into Rory’s embrace?

All will be revealed – but first a short aside.

Lee & Chantelle McArthur

Like all good myths, there’s an element of truth in the “oysters-make-you-randy” story. But a plateful of oysters for dinner will not, by themselves, lead to a night of wild passion.

Having said that, back in 2005, newspapers in the United Kingdom and in Australia reported with breathless glee that scientists had finally made a connection between eating oysters and a rise in the levels of sex hormones in male and female rats due to the existence of a couple of unusual amino acids.

Perhaps Casanova was right to power up with oysters before his lusty bedroom activities. He went through 60 of the slippery molluscs a day, which would have had a beneficial impact on his body’s zinc level, never mind his sex hormones.

Oysters are a particularly good source of zinc, an important mineral in our diet and essential for function of many of our body’s systems. A shortage of zinc can have a detrimental effect on our reproductive systems, and the mineral is also known to help boost testosterone levels.

We don’t store zinc in our bodies so we have to replenish the supply regularly. Zinc from fish and meat is better absorbed by our bodies than zinc in grains. Liver has a good supply of zinc – think paté and this option becomes sexier – but oysters have a whole lot more of the mineral than any red meat.

But when did we start eating oysters? There’s evidence from middens found around the Australian coast that Aboriginal communities were eating oysters some 12,000 to 20,000 years ago.

In more recent times, the Romans considered oysters as a delicacy. Pliny wrote that the best oysters were found in river mouths where light from the sun made them sweet and plump.

So fond were the Romans of oysters that they even developed ways to cultivate them, creating the first oyster farms. And when they invaded Britain, the Romans discovered a plentiful supply of oysters around Britain’s coast; oysters that were shipped back to Rome live for the discerning Roman public.

The demise of oyster beds means what we eat now are farmed. Durundal

By the 18th century, oysters had become an easily accessible food for New York and London poor. They were dredged by fishermen in barges, or picked over by hand at low tide, and sold by street sellers pushing barrows. But by the middle of the 19th century, the oyster beds were gone – destroyed through indiscriminate fishing practices.

As availability of oysters decreased, cultivated oysters became an extravagance and were sold at a premium price. With the demise of the oyster beds went the natural filtration processes that kept waters clear, an increasingly urgent problem recognised today.

Here in Australia, we have three main types of farmed oysters: the Sydney rock oyster and the Angasi oyster are native to Australia, while the Pacific oyster is a native of Japan. The majority of our oysters are farmed in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia and we enjoy them so much that only 3% is exported.

Oysters may not make you randy but they do contribute to a healthy diet, which is definitely a good way to maintain sexual health. And don’t forget the pure sensual pleasure of eating oysters. The slippery, salty creature cupped in its own misshapen shell, bathed in brine, topped with a splash of lemon, a shalloty vinegar reduction or a citrusy ponzu dressing – just orgasmic!

So if you’re taking your partner to dinner and want to set the mood, don’t abandon the oysters… or the location, the champagne and the candlelight. Oysters can still play an important role in the game of romance, even though they aren’t an aphrodisiac in a shell.

There’s more than one food that leads to your lover’s heart. Premshree Pillai

And so, back to our story…

Holly woke to find Rory gone. Self-recrimination hung like a shadow in the daylight. Eating those oysters, what was she thinking?

“Are you awake, Holly, gorgeous girl?” Rory stood in the doorway holding a breakfast tray in his hands. “Breakfast delivered to your bedside, princess. Cafe au lait and the best pain au chocolat in the whole town.”

Hastily flattening her tousled hair, Holly sat up, sniffing the glorious aromas of steaming coffee and buttery croissants. She gazed hungrily at the curls of chocolate oozing from the crisp pastry.

“Rory … how wonderful!” grinned Holly, feeling overwhelmingly happy.

Rory gave Holly a wicked smile, “They say oysters are an aphrodisiac but wait til you eat the chocolate. Nothing beats chocolate for arousing passion.“

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1 Comment sorted by

  1. Catherine Simpson

    Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at Macquarie University

    Thanks for your medical myth Penny. Your article reminded me of that undervalued Australian romantic comedy by Anna Reeves, The Oyster Farmer (2004). And also, a doco that screened on the ABC's Australian Story a few years ago, called 'Something's in the Water', where some oyster farmers, a GP and an ecologist in banded together in Tasmania because they thought toxins in the water were adversely affecting the local community: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/specials/somethingwater/default.htm
    And after learning that oysters are filter feeders, I shied away from eating them. Perhaps I should think again?

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