Exploring the Relationship between Food and Sexual Desire, and Food and Sexual Satiety (Part 2)
By James A Simon, MD, CCD, NCMP, IF, FACOG
In part one of this blog series, I focused on the profound impact obesity has on health generally. Literally every organ system in the body is affected. This includes reproductive organ cancers (i.e. breast, uterus, cervix and prostate) which demonstrate a significant increase in the number of cases and their severity in overweight and obese individuals. The costs to society are extraordinary. For example, the total cost of diabetes alone in the US was $327 billion (not a typo) in 2017, a 26 percent increase over the previous five-years (http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy/news-events/cost-of-diabetes.html). In this blog post (The Masturbation Diet Blog (Part 2), I want to zoom in on the impact of overweight and obesity on reproductive processes.
Weight gain over the reproductive lifecycle in women is incredible. For example, the percentage of US women with a body mass index or BMI of =25 kg/m2 (the standard definition of overweight individuals) increases from 56% for women aged 20-40, to 66% in women aged 40-60, and further increases to 74% in women aged 60-80 years. Yes, 3 out of 4 women aged 60 years and older are overweight or obese. Yikes! Further, the increase in “midlife spread” is focused in that stubborn truckle fat or visceral fat which carries with it changes in metabolism known as the metabolic syndrome (see below) which can increase heart attacks and strokes. (Flegal KM et al. JAMA. 2012;307:491-497.). When overweight and obesity affects a pre-pregnancy women, it can reduce her fertility (even with in vitro fertilization/”the test tube baby procedure”), and cause sexual dysfunction. When that women is pregnant, overweight or obesity can result in a greater risk of early miscarriage, congenital abnormalities in the baby, high blood pressure during later pregnancy (pre-eclampsia), added risk of the baby’s shoulders getting stuck during vaginal delivery (shoulder dystocia), and even the risk of a required Cesarean delivery. And women who tend to have excessive weight gain during pregnancy seldom lose it all, adding even more weight with each subsequent pregnancy.
In no case is the imbalance between one’s sexual appetite (too little) and one’s appetite for food (too much) more disproportionately affected than in overweight and obese individuals. Overweight and obese men have a 30-90% increased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) compared with normal weight men. Women with the metabolic syndrome due in part to overweight or obesity (see above) have an increased prevalence of sexual dysfunctions as compared with matched control women. Lifestyle changes aimed at reducing body weight and increasing physical activity can improve both erectile function in obese men and arousal (lubrication and genital tingling) in women. The Mediterranean-style diet might be effective in ameliorating sexual dysfunction in women with the metabolic syndrome. (Esposito K, Giugliano , Ciotola M, et al. Obesity and sexual dysfunction, male and female. Int J Impot Res. 2008 Jul-Aug;20(4):358-65.)
Most importantly, we can now change the balance, that is, increase the desire for sex while decreasing the desire for food. Really? Yes! Deep in the brain, the hypothalamus and surrounding neural networks are the control center between desire for sex and desire for food. Let’s think evolutionarily. When there is famine (there are no famines at the Safeway, Publix, or Kroger these days), and associated severe weight loss, or starvation etc., reproduction stops. No menstrual periods, no hormones to trigger sexual appetite, resulting in low libido and little or no sex. Similar processes occur when a women is breast feeding. She is living off her “baby fat,” and in the process losing calories as she breast feeds the baby. The balance in the hypothalamus is likewise turned against sex, it’s all about the baby, the hell with sex, as Mother Nature didn’t want another pregnancy too close to the last one. Further if there is sex, it’s usually very painful because the imbalance in hormones is also focused on the health of the baby, not healthy genital tissues…and if there is pain with sex, well that’ certainly a disincentive for more sex.
These natural phenomena: the impact of weight (too low or too high) on sexual reproductive/function in both men and women, extensive research into the mechanisms controlling one’s appetite either for sex or for food, informs us on how to modify the balance between these two natural desires. We call that The Masturbation Diet, a counseling program in the area of sexual activity, wellness, and nutrition where we can help get the balance corrected.
In The Masturbation Diet Blog (Part 3) we’ll talk specifically about these controls and how affect the balance.