We Only Eat What We Like, Part 4 – (More) Sex is Good (Exercise)
For References, please see the previous articles, same title.
I once caressed the idea of using sex as a substitute to gym, and an interesting approach to weight loss. The sexual response is a form of exercise that has strong biological and evolutionary components. Few studies have focused upon sexual behavior as exercise. There are parallels between the orgasmic response and exercise. Physiological bases of the sexual response help to explain individual differences in sexual behavior and the well being that often accompanies states of passionate love, addiction and exercise. Studies suggest that sexual activity is associated with well being and longevity, yet many health and exercise professionals fail to take account of sexual activity in advancing exercise programs and executing studies; the so-called Ostrich Effect persists. Investigators need to separate the passionate love stage of relationships that are biologically based and last 3 to 4 years from the later stages of long term committed partnerships in which sexual activity continues as a form of exercise, competence expression and fun [Butt 1990]. Besides, people who have sex once or twice weekly have higher levels of sIgA than people who have sex <1/week, or never al all. People who perform sex >3 times/week have low levels of sIgA –the latter may be related to stress [Charnetski et al. 1999]. And sexual pleasure controls pain: in 2 studies with 10 women each, vaginal self-stimulation significantly increased the threshold to detect and tolerate painful finger compression, but did not significantly affect the threshold to detect innocuous tactile stimulation. In one study, 6 of the women perceived the vaginal stimulation as producing pleasure. During that condition, the pain tolerance threshold increased significantly by 36.8% and the pain detection threshold increased significantly by 53%. A second study utilized other types of stimuli. Vaginal self-stimulation perceived as pressure significantly increased the pain tolerance threshold by 40.3% and the pain detection threshold by 47.4%. In the second study, when the vaginal stimulation was self-applied in a manner that produced orgasm, the pain tolerance threshold and pain detection threshold increased significantly by 74.6% and 106.7% respectively, while the tactile threshold remained unaffected. A variety of control conditions, including various types of distraction, did not significantly elevate pain or tactile thresholds. B. Whipple and B.R. Komisaruk  concluded that in women, vaginal self-stimulation decreases pain sensitivity, but does not affect tactile sensitivity. This effect is apparently not due to painful or non-painful distraction.
Lesbians watching sexually stimulating videos had an increase in γ-IFN production paralleling the number of orgasms [Halpern 1996]. The rise in endorphin rate is prominently associated with orgasm(s), and useful enzymes (e.g. depolymerases) appear in the vaginal secretions when there is an orgasm [Nicoli et al. 1995].
Does semen have antidepressant properties? Ney  hypothesized that semen may have an effect on mood in women. Many of the compounds present in human semen, e.g. testosterone [Benziger et al. 1983], are absorbed through the vaginal epithelium, and testosterone is absorbed more quickly that way than through the skin [Wester et al. 1980]. Gordon G. Gallup Jr.et al.  demonstrated that the level of depressive symptoms among sexually active female college students (SUNY Albany) is related to the consistency of condom use. Females who had sex without condoms, and therefore would be more likely to have semen in their reproductive tract, evidenced fewer depressive symptoms. Consistent with the hypothesis that there may be something about semen that antagonizes depression, females who were having sex without condoms also showed lower depression scores than those who were abstaining from sex altogether. There was no difference in the (increased) depression scores between condom users and abstainers, demonstrating that it is not sexual activity per se that antagonizes depression. It would be interesting to investigate the possible antidepressant effects of oral ingestion of semen, or semen applied through anal intercourse (or both) among both heterosexual couples as well as homosexual males [Nicoli et al. 1995].
In older men, in order to prevent erectile dysfunction, regular sexual activity is recommended, as summarized in the conclusion of this extensive Finnish study: “Regular intercourse protects (older) men from the development of erectile dysfunction. This may have an impact on general health and quality of life. Doctors should support patients’ sexual activity” [Koskimaki et al. 2008].
Love is more than sex. B.R. Komisaruk and B. Whipple  define “love” as one’s having stimulation that one desires. The nature of the stimulation can range on a continuum from the most abstract cognitive, to the most direct sensory, forms. Thus, this definition of love encompasses having an emotional bond with a person for whom one yearns, as well as having sensory stimulation that one desires. They propose a neural mechanism by which deprivation of love may generate endogenous, compensatory sensory stimulation that manifests itself as psychosomatic illness. In addition, they also propose a neuroendocrine mechanism underlying sexual response and orgasm. The latter includes vaginocervical sensory pathways to the brain that can produce analgesia, release ocytocin, and/or bypass the spinal cord via the vagus nerve. They present evidence of the existence of non-genital orgasms, which suggests that genital orgasm is a special case of a more pervasive orgasmic process. The better our understanding of love, the greater is our respect for the significance and potency of its role in mental and physical health.
PBMC Peripheral blood mononucleated (or mononuclear) cells
ACTH Adrenal corticotrophin hormone
LDL Low Density Lipoprotein
NMR Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
MS Mass Spectrometry
HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus
NK Natural Killer Cell
HDL High Density Lipoprotein
IgA Immunoglobulin A
sIgA Secretory IgA
TNF Tumor Necrosis Factor
HGH Human Growth Hormone
DOPAC Dihydroxyphenylacetic Acid
SEB Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B
Hs-CRP High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein
GNP Gross National Product
CDC Centers for Disease Control
SUNY State University New York
Georges M. Halpern, MD, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Sciences
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
E-mail: [email protected]