Libido can be roughly translated to sexual desire. It is affected by hormones and neurotransmitters. Libido is extremely complex...Libido can be roughly translated to sexual desire. It is affected by hormones and neurotransmitters. Libido is extremely complex and seems to be influenced by psychological, physiological and sociological factors.
Libido is your sexual desire, spontaneity, frequency and how much sex you have. Low libido can be experienced by both genders (Source: NCBI). Low sex drive, vitality and overall wellbeing seem to be interconnected. Low libido is typically not a cause rather it seems to be a symptom or consequence of something misfiring under the hood, such as anxiety, depression, stress, overwhelm, an underlying health condition, and so on. Importantly, consulting your healthcare practitioner to identify the root cause is paramount, otherwise, you may be "trying" to treat the symptom (low libido) when in reality something else may need attention.
Libido is tightly related to sex hormone levels, as shown in the figure above, theoretically our highest sex drive should be between 20-35 years old. Interestingly there seem to be other mechanisms at play other than sex hormones and neurotransmitters with improved sexual desire. As we will see in the next section with maca powder.
What can increase my libido?
This depends on the cause of low libido. As always consult your healthcare professional to diagnose the root cause and appropriate treatment. What follows is an overview of some of the interesting scientific literature on Maca Powder (Lepidium meyenii), not to be mistaken for medical advice, rather simple dissemination of scientific enquiry. The increased libido following maca supplementation does not appear to be related to fluctuations in sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone).
Maca powder (2g/day) increased libido in trained males over a 2-4 week period (Source: NCBI). Although the sample size was small in this trial. Nevertheless, promising and emerging evidence that maca has some potential.
Another trial investigating 1.5g or 3g of maca per day reported an improvement in sexual desire in males at week 8 of treatment (Source: NCBI). However, sex hormones were not affected in those taking maca or placebo. Therefore, again maca appears to improves sexual desire through another unidentified mechanism or hormones and neurotransmitters that weren't considered/measured.
The first two trials were in males only, the next trial investigated both males and females (Source: NCBI). Again, 1.5g and 3.0g of maca were tested, the participants experienced sexual dysfunction and low libido. The 3.0g/day of maca group observed increases in sexual experience score and sexual function questionnaire score. However, the 1.5g/day of maca group did not see the same increases (Source: NCBI).
Finally, an interesting study investigated the safety and acceptability of black or red maca extracts over 12 weeks in both sexes. Again 3g of red maca, but not black maca, improved sexual desire (Source: NCBI).
As mentioned at the outset this is NOT to be mistaken for, maca will improve YOUR sexual desire, individual differences are large and you should always consult your healthcare practitioner before beginning any supplement regime.
Below are the guidelines from the World Health Organisation (Source: BJSM). Engaging in some form of exercise whether it be low, moderate or high-intensity has potential to improve sexual desire (Source: NCBI):
"All adults should undertake regular physical activity;
Adults should do at least 150–300 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity,
or at least 75–150min of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity,
or an equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for substantial health benefits;
Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits"
Other Lifestyle Factors
Smoking & Stress: can impair sexual desire
Excessive Alcohol: can impair sexual desire
Obesity or excessive fat mass: can impair sexual desire
Any diet which restricts or completely excludes food groups will increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies and therefore potentially impaired sexual function. Therefore, following a balanced and varied diet is recommended.. Supplementation may be beneficial to fill the gaps as discussed in "additional considerations" below.
While consumption of most nutrients through natural or fortified foods is preferred, some nutrients may occasionally need supplementation. Especially for restrictive diets or those that lack variety.
As a general rule try to consume 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Importantly, if you do not consume animal products you should consult your healthcare professional to discuss and consider a vitamin B12 supplement. The main issue with vitamin B12 is everything is fine until it's not. Meaning its a silent threat to our health, we have stores in the liver that can last 1-2 years and even longer in some instances. Hence, get ahead and check your status, the first sign of vitamin B12 deficiency can, unfortunately, have already caused irreversible damage. Vitamin D is another at risk-nutrient and should be supplemented from October-March in countries of northern latitude (north of the equator, Ireland, UK, Denmark, etc.) (Source: NCBI, MDPI).
General and targeted supplementation should be considered for restrictive or low energy-density diets, rather than a multivitamin/multimineral. Following the principles of a healthy balanced diet will cover most of your nutritional needs for the majority of the population. If concerned consult a healthcare professional who can help you with your diet and overall health.
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