Over the past few years, the keto diet has seen a rise in popularity. Its main benefits are weight loss and improved overall health. In addition, keto diet may also affect your sex drive.
A Rundown on Libido
To understand how keto may affect libido, we first need to understand what libido is and how it can be regulated.
Sexual drive, also known as libido, is as a person’s drive or desire for sex. It is part of the sexual response cycle and consists of four stages: desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution. The first stage has sexual desire as one of its components, with motivation and sexual wish being the other two components.
What Affects Your Libido?
Desire and drive to have sex depend on a wide range of factors, just some of which include:
- Sex Hormones: Research shows that when your sex hormones – testosterone and estrogen – are elevated, you are more likely to experience a higher sex drive. If you’re a woman with low estrogen levels or a man with low testosterone levels, you’re more likely to experience a low sex drive.
- Diet: No surprise here: diet has a huge impact on sexual health and function. First, if you’re overweight due to your dietary choices, you’re at a higher risk for sexual dysfunction, such as lack of interest or erectile dysfunction. On the other hand, some foods are better for your sex drive than others. For example, high-fat dietary choices tend to promote the production of natural sex hormones. One study found that urine-based testosterone excretion was 13 percent higher in subjects on a high-fat diet.
- Physical Activity Level: Exercise is just as important to sexual desire as diet. Research shows that physical health and sexual health are connected, and those who live sedentary lives are more likely to lack that spark in the bedroom. This stems from both the physical barriers of being overweight and the psychological barriers of low self-esteem and poor self-image.
- Alcohol and Drug Use: While alcohol may be the thing that initiates your sex life, it can also be bad for you. Studies have shown that chronic and excessive use of alcohol and drugs leads to a significant decrease in sexual desire and an increase in sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
How does Keto Affect Libido?
A keto diet may improve sexual function in certain populations, but research on this topic is relatively limited.
A person’s sex drive is largely dependent on their testosterone levels. According to an earlier study from 2014, low levels can reduce libido. Research on how ketosis affects testosterone is inconsistent – some evidence suggests it lowers the hormone, while other studies have found it may actually increase it.
Some studies have looked at the benefits of a keto diet for people with chronic health conditions. A small 2018 study of obese women found that after four months of a low-calorie keto diet, participants reported improvements in sexual function. However, they also reported weight loss, reduced food and alcohol cravings, and better sleep. This suggests that the diet caused an improvement in overall quality of life, which included better sexual function and libido. Thus, diet did not independently cause these sexual improvements.
Another study in 2021 in people with chronic diseases found that in adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes, the keto diet was associated with reduced food cravings, increased exercise, and improved sexual function. As with previous studies, these results suggest that such diets may improve quality of life and overall health indicators in some individuals.
While a low-calorie ketogenic diet plan has been associated with improved libido and sexual function, it may not be a safe long-term option. Research on the long-term sustained effects of the ketogenic diet is limited.
Some Keto Libido Theories Explained
As already stated, researchers don’t really know if and how keto affects sexual desire. However, there are a number of theories and speculations about how it affects this particular aspect of your health. Here are some of those theories explained.
Elevated blood glucose and insulin are associated with sex hormone imbalances in both men and women. In women, these imbalances are also associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal condition that, among many other things, leads to sexual dysfunction. A keto diet can address the issue of high blood sugar and elevated insulin levels, resulting in a more favorable balance of sex hormones.
Studies have shown that keto addresses issues related to mood problems such as GABA deficiency, low 5-hydroxytryptamine levels, poor mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin resistance. On top of that, any success you have on this diet will be an instant mood booster that will also cause your confidence to skyrocket.
On the other hand, keto can initially cause you to lose your sex drive. This is not uncommon for people who are new to the keto diet, and it can be a direct result of electrolyte imbalances. One electrolyte that is particularly important for sexual function is magnesium. Low levels of this electrolyte can wreak havoc on your thyroid as well as your sex hormones.
While all of these theories may be true, it’s best to take them with a grain of salt. Researchers are just beginning to study how keto affects your hormones and even your metabolic health. What we do know is that keto can address a range of health issues known to have a negative impact on sex drive. On the other hand, experiencing sexual dysfunction on this diet may be a temporary side effect of carbohydrate restriction, rather than a sign that the diet is ineffective.