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Why oysters pack a nutritional punch

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With the Whitstable Oyster Festival taking place this coming week, I have (Callie Jones)been thinking about the high nutritional value of this seafood, in particular its zinc content, which has led to claims of sexually stimulating effects.

Oysters have long been thought to have aphrodisiac properties, but there have been few studies on this matter. A 250g serving can contain around 200mg of zinc, which is 20 times the recommended dietary allowance. Oysters are also rich in vitamins D and B12, copper, selenium and iron.

The presence of zinc and copper was reported as long ago as 1904. And, in 1919, a report on laboratory analyses of oysters from the US Atlantic seaboard concluded that oysters could absorb and retain zinc and copper in quantities far in excess of functional requirements, especially those grown in waters heavily polluted with industrial waste.

Zinc is a vital nutrient in normal reproductive function and embryonic development of mammals, including humans, and zinc deficiency has been associated with poor reproductive function and in the populist literature with lack of libido.

A study in zinc-deficient mice found that supplementation with oyster extract improved reproductive failure, sperm mobility and embryonic defects. In addition to zinc, other nutrients present in oysters, in particular amino acids such as taurine, may be responsible for improved reproductive function, but the claims that oysters act as an aphrodisiac remain clinically unproven. But given that sexual appetite begins in the brain, simply believing that oysters improve sexual power may be enough to make it true for some.

 

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