Malnutrition & Sex Drive
Malnutrition refers to poor or inadequate consumption of one or more essential nutrients (both macro and/or micro) over a significant period of time. Malnutrition is marked by onset of nutritional deficiencies and diseases that may cause deleterious effects on the overall wellness and long term health. It is noteworthy that malnutrition is often mistaken for inadequate calorie intake, which is not always true. In order to maintain a healthy and functional lifestyle, it is very important to consume all the nutrients in desired doses.
Malnutrition can be:
1. Primary: Most common cause is low availability of food or certain essential nutrients in the diet due to environmental or economic factors. According to a new case-study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (1), investigators reported the clinical presentation of a 21-year old male who underwent significant weight loss by dieting. The sudden and severe calorie as well as nutritional deprivation culminated in weight loss of 23.5 kg over a period of 10 months as well as complications such as low sex drive, weakness, fatigue and rash.
2. Secondary: Inability to assimilate, absorb or utilize certain nutrients from the diet despite high intake or adequate availability of food can also lead to malnutrition and resulting deleterious effects on the metabolism. For example, individuals who suffer from gluten sensitive enteropathy often complaints of poor sex drive. According to a new study, investigators suggested that gluten insensitivity directly interferes with the synthesis of several hormones in the body. In addition, gluten also impairs the absorption of vital nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) from the gut, which are required for the synthesis of important hormones and neurotransmitters (3).
Pathophysiology of malnutrition in the setting of low sex drive
Most effects on the sex drive in the setting of malnutrition are mediated by low testosterone levels. Clinical studies suggests that significantly low testosterone levels can present with following symptoms:
- Sexual dysfunction: This may range from low sex drive, poor stamina and low libido to serious sexual disorders such as erectile dysfunction.
- Physical symptoms: Men with low testosterone levels can also experience loss of muscle and bone mass which often culminates in poor stamina and energy levels, muscle and bone aches, risk of developing muscle and joint injury with minimal impact of force or pressure and poor endurance. All these disturbances often leads to poor sex drive.
According to clinical data, inadequate intake of following nutrients can affect different stages of testosterone synthesis or metabolism:
- Vitamin K: This vitamin is responsible for the activation of the final enzyme that controls the rate limiting step in the synthesis of testosterone.
- Vitamin D: Clinical studies indicate that Vitamin D facilitates the synthesis of Vitamin D and supplementation can actually help in boosting the testosterone levels.
- Vitamin E: Excessive intake of Vitamin E is known to negatively affect testosterone levels.
- Magnesium: Adequate intake of Magnesium is needed for biological activation of free testosterone in the body.
- Carnitine: Experts suggests that consumption of carnitine can boost dopamine levels and thereby prevents testosterone decline after physical stress.
Other important nutrients that must be consumed in recommended doses are; zinc, folate, vitamin C etc.
How can you improve your sex drive?
Besides improving the nutritional quality of your food; you can also adopt these simple tips to improve your sex drive and testosterone levels:
- Engage yourself in weight training and resistance exercises to boost the synthesis of testosterone in the body.
- Increase your intake of dietary proteins. According to dietary recommendations, an adult male should consume at least 1.0 to 1.2 grams/ kg body weight of proteins in the diet to maintain optimal health.
- If you are living with a chronic medical condition that restricts your capacity to consume certain type of nutrients, speak to a dietitian in order to learn more about alternative sources of those dietary nutrients.
- Obesity or abnormally high body mass index can also lead to low testosterone levels and poor sex drive; therefore, it is highly recommended to speak to a dietitian and trainer in order to ensue healthy weight loss, without compromising testosterone metabolism in the body.
1. Hunt, D. P., Becker, A. E., Guimaraes, A. R., & Stemmer-Rachamimov, A. (2012). Case 21-2012: A 27-Year-Old Man with Fatigue, Weakness, Weight Loss, and Decreased Libido. New England Journal of Medicine, 367(2), 157-169.
2. Sakai, K., Fukami, K., Yamagishi, S. I., Kaida, Y., Adachi, T., Ando, R., … & Okuda, S. (2013). Evidence for a positive association between serum carnitine and free testosterone levels in uremic men with hemodialysis. Rejuvenation research, 16(3), 200-205.
3. Csajbok, E., Orosz, A., Hankovszky, P., Rudas, L., & Lengyel, C. (2013). Torsade de pointes caused by gluten sensitive enteropathy leading to multiplex endocrine failure: case report.