Libido after 50 and Vitamin D pros and cons

Posted on: 16 December 2013 by 50connect editorial

Health news round up - Dr Sarah Brewer examines libido in later life, while Robert Hobson asks whether Vitamin D supplements are all they're cracked up to be.

libido and sex drive for over 50s

New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that our interest in sex doesn’t decline as much as we may have thought as we age. And it’s not much of a surprise, after all, sex drive is usually the second strongest urge in humans, after sleep.

If you age gracefully, then there’s no reason that your normal level of sexual activity can’t continue for as long as possible. The study revealed that many of the people who do stop having sex do so because of poor health, rather than because the drive diminishes. The key here is what is normal for you? Sex drive varies considerably from person to person, however, and also from time to time.  If you want to maintain your current level of sexual activity, then as with everything else in life, it helps to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. “Many vitamins and minerals are needed to co-ordinate sex hormone levels and nervous system responses, so good nutrition is key,” explains GP and medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer. And why not see if oysters deserve the reputation they’ve been given! “Oysters owe their aphrodisiac reputation to their high zinc content,” explains Dr Brewer. “This is important for maintaining testosterone levels and for both male and female fertility.”

Ginseng has been associated also been associated with sexual function for centuries. “Research suggest that ginseng contains an enzyme known as panquilon, which increases levels of nitric oxide (a nerve chemical essential for increasing blood flow) in both male and female erectile tissues,” explains Dr Brewer. “One study even found that men who took Korean ginseng for two months achieved a three times greater frequency of sexual intercourse and morning erections, and significantly firmer erections than those receiving placebo.”

But what if it’s psychological, rather than physical reasons that sex drive stalls? “The traditional herbal remedy St John’s Wort can significantly boost sex drive in those who are also depressed and is especially helpful for post-menopausal women with low sex drive, low mood and physical exhaustion.” Dr Brewer adds. “Research in Germany involving 111 women (aged 45-65 years) found that taking St John’s Wort extracts improved low mood, low sex drive and exhaustion. After three months, 60 per cent with low sex drive became interested in sex again, and enjoyed or even initiated sex with their partner. Eighty-two per cent also suffered less irritability, anxiety, low mood, hot flushes, sweating and disturbed sleep. Before the trial, 60 per cent said they were too exhausted for sex. At the end of the trial, none of them felt that way. They also reported increased self-esteem, as well as a marked increase in self-confidence.” Robert Hobson, Head of Nutrition for Healthspan agrees: “St John’s Wort Mood Relief is a herbal remedy that has been traditionally used for treating low mood and mild anxiety.”

Vitamin D - Is it worth taking?Vitamin D: is it worth it?

There has been so much positive news and research surrounding the benefits of vitamin D – often referred to as the sunshine vitamin – so it goes against the grain to see a new study published, which suggests it might not be all it’s cracked up to be. So could taking it be a waste of time?

What does the research say?

Previously, researchers have found that people with a number of degenerate illness, including cancers, diabetes and heart disease, also have low levels of vitamin D and it had been assumed that deficiency caused the diseases. This new research, however, suggests that ageing itself and associated diseases leads to low vitamin D levels, rather than the other way round.

Is it still worth taking as supplement?

There is no shortage of solid research extolling the virtues of ensuring you are not vitamin D deficient. Dr Sarah Brewer GP and medical nutritionist has commented: "A multitude of studies now show the benefits of avoiding vitamin D deficiency. Even the World Health Organisation agrees there is strong evidence that increased daily intake of vitamin D can significantly improve health. Meta-analyses suggest that vitamin D supplements may lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles to prevent falls in the elderly, reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, strengthen bones to prevent hip fractures, and may protect against dementia. As such, the results of this new single trial – which could be due to chance alone – need to be weighed against the accumulated body of evidence.  I for one will definitely continue to take it!"

What to look for when buying a supplement

“Look for supplements that contain the natural form of vitamin D, known as D3,” says Robert Hobson, Head of Nutrition for Healthspan. “Vitamin D3 is the form of vitamin D that is made in the body and therefore the form that you should insist on using.”

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