It is amusing to read all the debates on articles, blogs, or studies that affirm or negate claims as to who is the better lover or who has more libido or in simple words, who is hornier- vegans or meat-eaters.  Both camps are very passionate about it (much like the conservatives and liberals over the US health care reforms issue!), and often citing valid scientific studies to back up their arguments.  I decided to take a dip into the fray in my own small way, using the magical world view as a tool for analyzing the various arguments presented and make an extrapolation.  It would be interesting to make a formal survey on this and correlate the vegans’ eating habits with the sexual satisfaction of their partners.  However, both funding and how to test the validity of the data will surely be a problem for would-be researchers.

While I consider myself a pesca-vegan (similarly, no wool, cashmere, fur or leather even on wintery months.  brrr!), I’m not taking sides on this issue. I also wish to learn or know the facts. Besides, this is not about the debate on the good or evil of both lifestyles but a mere exploration on its alleged effects on a person’s sex drive or appetite.  Possibly, my curiosity is borne out of the common notion among people (in whose innuendos or jokes about it I personally experienced) that vegans and vegetarians have lesser libido than meat-eaters.  “Vegetable” and a chuckle usually go together.  Sometimes, there are religious overtones to it too.  Like, my work mates would sometimes tease me to the effect that ‘what’s the point of not eating meat, when we eat ‘meat’ during sex!’.  But I often return it in jest that ‘eating animal meat brings pain and death, while eating human flesh brings pleasure, and even life!’ lol! 🙂  While it sounds funny, the notion also brings some deep philosophical or religious angle to the debate.

I cannot bring justice to the question by personal self-observation since I adopted the vegetarian diet even before I became sexually active.  A before and after analysis is not possible.  So I will be content with secondary sources of information.  I have gathered and summarized below (from internet resources) most of the representative arguments from both sides, and many of them were allegedly based on scientific findings:

What meat-eaters say
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  • accordingly, vegans are more prone to zinc deficiency since the mineral is primarily found in meat, dairy, and shellfish.  zinc is important in producing testosterone which is responsible for producing sexual desire for both men and women.
  • some whole grains and beans can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb zinc
  • if the vegan diet is not properly planned, low levels of protein can bind testosterone in the body so it won’t be avaiable to tissues.
  • Vit. B-12  is found abundantly in animal meat. Deficiency will result in tiredness, fatigue, lethargy, breathlessness, pallor and poor resistance to infection decreasing one’s libido.  B-vitamins, in general, help in the regulation of sex hormones that is released in the body.
  • there is now this recent issue about soy-based foods that allegedly have high phyto-estrogen content that is said to lower libido.  This was observed on women taking on estrogen therapy for menopausal symptoms.
  • people gets lesser calories from a vegan meal, needing them to eat more or in regular intervals in a day to get the right energy to do work or have sex.  do busy vegans eat the right amount of calories daily?
  • meat products are high is amino acid “arginine” which is said to regulate vasodilation, erection, and plays an essential role in good sperm count.
  • a very low fat diet is also bad for the sex hormones
  • fish and seafood are said to be high in omega 3 (DHA and EPA), zinc and iodine which are said to be aphrodisiacs.  Iodine interacts with some thyroid hormones that regulates body heat and affects the production of testosterone.
  • its more difficult for vegans/vegetarians to access the food with the nutrients they need than meat-eaters because stores cater more to omnivorous population, thus it is doubtful if they get all the nutrition they need to substitute for meat, eggs, milk or seafood.
  • “Historically, vegetarianism has been linked more closely with chastity than with licentiousness. Around the same time, in Russia, Leo Tolstoy gave up meat because of his concerns about animal cruelty. In “The First Step,” his “essay on the morals of diet,” Tolstoy claims that meat-eating is “quite unnecessary, and only serves to develop animal feelings, to excite desire, to promote fornication and drunkenness.” Later, in the early 20th century, English schoolmasters recommended vegetarian diets to their students as a means of curbing their appetites for self-abuse.” (Rastogi, 2009)

What vegans/vegetarians say
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Much of the materials here are derived from the arguments presented by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who is currently the dominant voice of veganism:

  • eating too much calories may cause blood sugar fluctuations that adversely affect energy production.
  • cooked meat products usually use a lot of hydrogenated oils which can interfere with healthy fat metabolism leading to sexual performance problems
  • farm animals are fed with anti-biotics, growth hormones and other chemicals that go into the food of meat-eaters, making them unhealthy.  the adrenaline secreted while the animals are slaughtered are also consumed with the food.  all these chemical leftovers can cause irritation of the prostate and slow down testosterone production and triggers a slow digestion process making maintaining a strong erection difficult.
  • digestion of meat is often linked to breast cancer for women
  • recent scientific studies made to compare the stamina and strength of meat-eaters and vegetarians show that the first group had far less endurance than the latter.  they also show that vegetarians can bounce back faster from exhaustion and fatigue than meat-eaters. accordingly, this can be translated to quicker recovery from love-making and therefore, the capacity for more (Duran)
  • it is said that more physicians agree that eating meat clogs up the arteries that go to all organs, not just the heart. Cholesterol and animal fat slow the flow of blood to all the body’s vital organs, including down there leading to impotence.
  • Originally, it was thought that impotence was caused by anxiety, but according to the Erectile Dysfunction Institute, up to 90 percent of all cases of impotence are physical as opposed to psychological. High cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, prostate cancers or inflammations, and hormonal imbalances cause the vast majority of all cases of impotence.  these can be prevented with a low-fat vegan diet — a diet high in fiber, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Many healthy vegan foods are loaded with natural aphrodisiacs—nutrients and chemicals that boost your and your partner’s sexual arousal and performance. Research has shown that vegetarians enjoy greater amounts of the nutrients that help boost sexual health and performance—such as vitamins A, C, and E and potassium—than meat-eaters do.
  • since a vegan/vegetarian diet consumes low calories, one can have phenomenal physique which can lead to a psychological boost to attract more lovers
  • vegetarians are slimmer than nonvegetarians, weighing on average 20 to 30 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts. In other words, meat-eaters tend to be heavier than vegetarians, are more likely to be obese, and are more likely to have inferior sperm, based on recent researches.

What religions say
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Judaism:
In the Jewish dietary laws or Kosher, there are certain animal meats, birds, or fish that are considered unclean for food, such as pig, owl, lobster and many others.  This was derived from the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy (being part of the Torah), and from their other oral traditions handed down through generations.  Accordingly, there were no specific reasons given for these dietary rules.   Wikipedia states that aside from the obvious hygienic and practical grounds, a possible reason for this is that “it is believed that there are some of God’s regulations for mankind that the human mind is not necessarily capable of understanding”.

Islam:
Islam shares the same pattern of dietary rules with that of Judaism; they call theirs, Halal.  Certain animal meats are forbidden and considered unclean such as shellfish, animal blood, and pig, etc.. No specific reasons were likewise provided why certain animals are considered “unclean”, except that it was their deity’s will as stated in their holy book, the Koran.

Seventh day adventist (SDA):
The SDAs advocate the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet which forbid all types of animal meat, except for milk, eggs, and on occasions, allow certain types of fishes with scales and fins.  It is one of the few mainstream Christian churches that maintain dietary rules for their followers.  While they use the same Biblical references as Judaism, they added more scientific bases since this version of Christianity was only founded recently (in the early 19th century), and health sciences had already done progress in the study of nutrition and dietetics than in previous centuries.  They emphasized the importance of healthful living and the prevention of diseases, but their dietary rules are also closely tied to their concept of temperance or self-control which is also evident in their belief in sexual abstinence before marriage.

Other Christian churches:
The majority of modern Christian churches did not adopt any dietary regulations as part of their doctrine, however the practice of fasting for a period of time is customary and is encouraged, especially during days of religious significance (such as the Lent season).  Fasting and the abstinence from sex and meat are closely associated with mortification and atonement.

Hinduism:
As with Christianity, Hinduism do have many versions too.  The one I am most familiar with are those associated with the Vedantic traditions which uses Yoga as a tool for Soul realization.  Accordingly,  one of the first steps to attaining Yoga (or union) is the observance of certain self disciplines and restraints (Yamas and Niyamas).  One of this is “Shaucha” (or internal and external purity).  Food were classified as “sattvic” (the purest diet and most suitable for any serious students of yoga as they nourish the body and mind; they consist of wholefood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc.), “rajasic” (hot, bitter, sour or salty and stimulates the body and excite the passions; they consist of hot substances, stimulants, sharp spices, etc.), and “tamasic” (food that are stale, overripe or decaying or lacks prana or life-force; they consist of meat, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc.). The external and internal purity brought by pure food (vegetarian diet) prepares the body-mind for the other self-disciplines such as  “Ahimsa” (non-violence), “Satya” (truthfulness), “Asteya” (non-stealing), “Brahmacharya” (sexual abstinence) and “Aparigraha” (non-covetousness).

Synthesis:  My own magical blend
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Physiological perspective

It is very interesting to read all the scientific studies which both the meat-eater and vegan camps are citing.  While both sounds valid, I noticed that the main arguments appear to be referring to two different things, if my understanding is correct.  On one side, meat-eaters appear to be alluding to the vegan’s possible zinc, B vitamins, and amino acid deficiencies that may lower the production of sex hormones, such as testosterone, that are said to be responsible for producing sexual desire.  On the other side, vegans assert that animal meat and fat cause health problems such as obesity, cardio-vascular issues, or arterial blockages due to bad cholesterol which may all lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence.   But are the two conditions the same?

If physiological factors are all to libido, then the arguments offered by meat-eaters got it right.  To my mind, libido has nothing to do with getting an erection (for males).  I mean one can have huge sexual appetite or desire or drive, even if one’s bodily equipment is incapacitated to perform (as in the case of ED).  But of course, this is a much pitiful condition.  This can devastate one’s self-esteem, and will eventually lead to a loss of interest in sexual activities.  So the vegans will be laughing out lound in the end as what’s the point of having a gun, if it is defective and cannot be fired if needed?.

However, I guess the theoretical consideration above only tells half the story and cannot be relied upon for a generalization.  In real life, eating habits differ.  Even if one is vegan or vegetarian, but the diet is centered only on meat avoidance and not on proactively eating nutritionally balanced food, one will not get the sexual health he/she is hoping to achieve.  Meat-eaters, can be healthy too, by minimizing meat and adding a lot of fiber, fruits and vegetables into the diet.  But if aside from a fatty diet, one will also indulge in alcohol drinking, tobacco, and sedentary living, libido will surely diminish faster aside from the risk of being afflicted with ED sooner.  I believe being health-conscious in the key, from the purely physiological standpoint.

The religious connection

Rastogi’s observation that “vegetarianism may have some link to chastity than with licentiousness” prompted me to include what some religions with dietary regulation say about their rationale for their animal meat prohibitions.  While veganism in the West may have originated with the animal rights philosophical movement, but we cannot deny the influence of various Eastern spirituality, such as Yoga, Buddhism, and even Gandhian thought, that gained popular following.  I personally believe that religion can offer some insight why vegetarianism was ever practiced, especially among those with very ancient origins such as Hinduism.

As mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, Judaism, Islam, and some versions of Christianity had some reservations with meat-eating but the reasons given in their Scriptures are a bit hazy.  Perhaps the truth lies beyond the surface of parables and Scripture stories given to the masses (which during that time may not be capable of understanding) but were possibly taught to the closest apostles or serious followers as part of the “mysteries of the kingdom”.

Hinduism, and specifically its yoga traditions, gave the most explicit explanations.  Behind their three classifications of food are the different “pranas” or vital energies that permeate them.  The purest of these food (fruits and vegetables) are made of pranas coming from the Sun (going back to the concept of the Sun, as the Solar deity) which are assimilated to the human body through food consumption.  Animal meat are secondary or even tertiary consumers of plants, and therefore provide an inferior (stale) source of prana which have already undergone transformation inside their body.  This concept of varying grades or qualities of prana or vital energies are also supported within the belief system of esoteric Taoism and its offshoot, the Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) practices.  Each accupunture points and meridians in the body contain different types and qualities of “chi”, the Chinese name for prana.  Basing on the Taoist food energetics, most vegetables, fruits and grains contain chi or energy qualities that are either cool, cold or “Yin” (feminine).  These have passive, calming, soothing effects to the body, and to one’s sex hormones and libido!  This somehow corresponds to the sattvic food of the yogis.  “Yang”(masculine), hot, and warm foods, such as animal meat correspond to the rajasic and tamasic foods of the yogi.  Obviously, this aggressive energy activates and warms up the libido into action.

Still, that is not the entire story.  Eastern esoteric literatures, as well as Western ones (such as Max Heindel’s “Rosicrucian Principles of Health and Healing”) point to consciousness assimilation and transference as a more deeper reason for advocating vegetarianism.  Leo Tolstoy may have been familiar with this theory.  According to this world-view, consciousness or sentiency is not exclusive to humans but plant and animal life also share this principle.  In plants, this is characterized by “dreamless sleep”; and in animals, especially the most evolved ones (belonging to class mammalia), this pertains to emotional consciousness, consisting of the most basic desires, passions or appetites.  The residue of this in human is what we usually refer to as human base nature or animal instincts or the “fight or flight” response.  In ingesting animal meat, human consciousness, accordingly, will have to subdue and dominate first the basic emotions of the animals in the energy level, before it can become assimilated into one’s body.  In the process, some of the animal desires and passions gets absorbed in the human energy field.  And these characterize our so called libido, which may not even be limited to sexual desire but includes all our basic animal instincts, including the will to survive.

Intervening variables

In spite of the foregoing discussion, finding vegans who are far hornier than meat-eaters are not uncommon.  Here are some of the variables I can think of:

  • the pervasiveness of the use of coffee and caffeinated products that boost dopamine which are said to be related for keeping testosterone levels in the blood.  I have been vegan for a long time in the past that excludes the use of coffee but I noticed the sudden stimulation and edginess feeling it brought when I returned it back to my diet recently.  Yogis consider this as rajasic food.
  • people who love spices such as mushroom, garlic, jalapeno, etc. brings the same “yang” energy to the body
  • the use of wine puts the prana or chi currents in the body in motion.  but taken in excess, it burns up the body’s bio magnetic field
  • long time vegetarians usually have (unconsciously) sensitized aura that they can sense the emotional states of the people around them.  if one is not discerning enough, they can be mistaken as their own feeling or emotion.
  • a highly creative and intelligent person usually have an active throat chakra.  esoterically, it follows that the lower center of creativity, the sex chakra, becomes activated too.  but the opposite is not always true – an overly active lower chakra won’t influence its higher counterpart.  the rule is always, “as above, so below”.
  • hereditary factors or when the thoughts are always tuned in to the baser side of life.  “Energy follows thought” so the lower chakras will be fed and will be over-activated.

Concluding thoughts

The foregoing analysis may give rise to a false impression that vegans lost in the libido wars; or that libido itself is the villain, and the meat-eaters at its side.  I will try to summarize information gathered in a few words:

  • vegan and vegetarian diets appear to lower the libido based on the nutritional, religious, and esoteric perspectives; but they seem to promote cardio-vascular health and prevent impotence or ED (for males).
  • animal meat in the diet appears to highten the libido based on the nutritional, religious, and esoteric perspectives; but they seem to cause impotence or ED (for males) as one grows older and if the diet is not balanced.

Who is the better lover then?  Who is hornier?

I believe it all depends on what we view as the ultimate measure of being a “good lover”.  Vegans, as represented by the PETA ads, point to the capacity for intercourse and tied this up to male erection. I guess this is a defensive move on their part to belie the common notion that vegan lovers are “vegetables” in bed!  Perhaps,  sensing that the studies citing the relation between cardio-vascular health and E.D. are indisputable, the meat-eaters’ counter-argument highlighted their obvious advantage- high sex drive or libido.

One side defines it in terms of desire and the other, on the physical capacity.  So it is like saying that vegans are not hornier but when the situation demands it, they can perform due to cardio-vascular health, while meat-eaters may be horny all the time but when actual sex is needed, they will frustrate themselves or disappoint their partners.  Which situation is better?

I wish it is that simple but really, it is difficult to think in absolutes.  As I pointed out earlier, human habits differ.  Vegans, who converted to the diet, may be more intelligent and health-conscious than the others that the person will still get the nutrients he/she needs to substitute for the loss of meat.   Alternatively, I mentioned earlier several factors that may contribute to high libido even on a vegetarian diet.  Meat-eaters, on the other hand, cannot be stereotyped as generally unhealthy as there are always options to avoid cardio-vascular health issues, such as adding fiber-rich food to one’s diet and doing regular physical workout in the gym.

Probably, centering the argument on libido is the culprit.

So, is low libido bad or good?

I would rather listen to the rationale of old religions who have historically prescribed non-meat diets.  While their founders may not have the technological advancement to look into hormones and the stuff, but they have thousands of years of head start in observing human nature, and the relation between diet and human behavior.  For instance, in yoga traditions, they want the mind, and the Soul (atma) to be in control of the personality.  A very strong libido and sexual appetite will distract the mind from its spiritual focus, and might even be the driving factor in one’s life  instead of the higher purpose.  Even from a non-religious perspective, a testosterone overdrive or an uncontrolled libdo might bring behavioral havoc like cockiness, uncalled for aggression or even sexual addiction.  This will disrupt one from being an effective and functional person.  But this is not to say that meat-eaters are predisposed to this kind of behavior.  Both vegans and meat-eaters may experience extremely high libido but time-tested methods still work, like directing the excess energy to sports, creative pursuits like music, art, writing, or even blogging(!)

All said, maybe nobody is ought to win in the war!  And the battleground should, instead, be shifted to the realm of conscience.

As Gandhi pointed out to vegetarians, the ethical principles of non-violence and compassion to animals are more important motivation for the lifestyle than the promise of health or libido.  Vegans and vegetarians should take this ethics to mind too in dealing with humans,  including  meat-eaters.

Similarly, the Teacher in the good Book also rebuked people who equated diet and external rituals with holiness (“holier than thou” attitude) with the reminder that “…it’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”   Meat-eaters should prove them wrong through action.  That character, goodwill, and altruism have nothing to do with one’s diet.
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Photo credits:  photo used here was modified from a PETA blog ad poster at http://blog.peta.org

References used:

“Vegetarians’ Sex Life May Suffer If Diet Is Incomplete” By Adam Pasick, http://foxnews.com/health/020200/limpveggies.sml

“Veganism is good for the planet, but is it bad for my sex drive?” – Scarletteen, sex ed for the real world,  http://www.scarleteen.com

“What You Absolutely Should and Shouldn’t Do To Boost Your Sex Drive and Enhance Performance”  by Ori Hofmekler, http://www.dragondoor.com/articler/mode2/Nutrition

“Do vegetarians really have better sex?” By Nina Shen Rastogi, http://www.slate.com

“How Red Meat is Killing Your Sex Life” By Carlos M Duran, http://ezinearticles.com

PETA online resources:  http://www.peta.org , http://www.goveg.com , http://blog.peta.org

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