Sugar and Sodas: Two Important Causes of Low Libido in Men

Fact Checked

Is your low libido caused by the types of foods you eat and beverages you drink? We’ll explore that idea in part 2 of our 90-Day Challenge.

Last Updated: 01/31/2023

Written by

Kimberly Wilkes

In our intermittent fasting blog post, we talked about our 90-day challenge, where we encourage men to add a new sexual-health-promoting activity each week. 

For strong sexual function, taking care of all aspects of your physical health is important. To accomplish this goal, we added intermittent fasting on week one of the 90-Day Challenge. Now it’s time for week two, where your goal is to eliminate all sugars, sodas, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweets from your diet. 

Sugar and soft drinks don’t qualify as foods to enhance libido. They’re foods that lower testosterone, a hormone involved in sex drive. So why are sweets and soft drinks so bad for sexual health?  In this blog post we’re going to dive in to that question and offer some tips on how to conquer your cravings. 

Like Sludge Running Down a River 

In short, refined sugars spike your glucose, which in turn clogs up your blood vessels, like sludge or mud running down a river. The clogged blood vessels slow down your blood supply from reaching your organs and tissues to feed them nutrients. 

But it’s a whole lot more complicated than that. Let’s dig deeper into exactly how sodas and sugars impact sexual health.

Soft Drinks and Sexual Intercourse

A lot of research shows that soft drinks aren’t exactly libido boosters for men. Many soft drinks contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a type of sugar that is especially damaging to sexual health, not to mention the health of the entire body. 

HFCS can boost the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors for heart disease including high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome is also linked to sexual decline. In fact, HFCS promotes the development of diabetes and the buildup of belly fat, two other factors linked to sexual decline.  

Whether they contain HFCS or regular sugar, soft drinks have a high glycemic index and can send blood sugar levels soaring. Once blood sugar levels spike, the body releases insulin in an attempt to stabilize blood sugar. 

Increased insulin stimulates liver cells to make the “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL for short.

Increased insulin also raises triglyceride levels, which damages the blood vessels and triggers inflammation, a process that leads to stiffening of the blood vessels, known as arteriosclerosis. Sexual decline is actually a red flag that this arteriosclerosis process has begun since poor sexual function often comes before cardiovascular problems. 

High fructose corn syrup and sugar can also lead to insulin resistance, a process that damages the lining of the blood vessels throughout the body, including the penis. This type of damage causes the blood vessels to narrow, which reduces blood flow. Scientists call this type of damage endothelial dysfunction.

Compared to vessels throughout the body, penile blood vessels are even more vulnerable to endothelial dysfunction during insulin resistance and high blood sugar. Penile blood vessels are already narrower than many other vessels, so even a small amount of additional constriction caused by insulin resistance doesn’t bode well for healthy erections because blood flow to the penis is critical for good sexual function. 

In fact, insulin resistance is one of the first signs that a man is going to develop sexual decline.1 

What Sugar Does To Your Testosterone Levels

Another way in which soft drinks, sugar, and HFCS affect male sexual health is by causing you to pack on the pounds. Overweight and obese men usually have lower levels of testosterone, a hormone involved in sexual function. In fact, 20% to 40% of men with sexual decline have reduced testosterone levels.2 

More flab on the body—especially abdominal fat—leads to increased estrogen levels at the same time it lowers testosterone. The increased estrogen production becomes a vicious cycle, since more estrogen results in more belly fat, which in turn leads to less testosterone. 

Testosterone deficiency causes thickening of the corpus cavernosum tissue,2 erectile tissue that makes up most of the penis. Normally, blood vessels in the corpus cavernosum fill with blood during sexual arousal, but if the corpus cavernosum isn’t working properly due to low testosterone levels, sexual function can suffer.

Refined Carbs and Sexual Health

Soft drinks are a type of refined carbohydrate, but they’re not the only type. Cakes, cookies, and anything made with white flour or sugar can spike blood sugar and insulin levels and wreak havoc on your sexual health, just like soft drinks do. Eating lots of refined carbs can damage the blood vessel lining and lower levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that’s involved in strong erections.3 

Eating lots of refined carbs can lead to high levels of triglycerides and glucose, which are independent risk factors for sexual decline.4 

Instead choose foods to enhance libido in men such as salmon, oysters, beets,  nuts, seeds, and apples. Beets are an especially good way to boost nitric oxide levels while oysters are foods that increase testosterone thanks to their high content of zinc, a mineral linked to healthy testosterone levels. 

Fruit Juice and Sexual Decline

Does fruit juice lead to sexual decline? The answer isn’t black and white. Some fruit juice—pomegranate juice in particular—is good for sexual function. However, most fruit juices cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Without any fiber from the fruit to slow down absorption, juices cause a burst of high blood sugar. 

What Are The Best Foods for Libido?

According to a lot of research, foods good for libido are those eaten on the Mediterranean diet. This type of eating pattern is high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fish, and low in red and processed meat, refined grains, and added sugars. It includes the types of foods that boost testosterone and contribute to sexual health.

In a review of medical journal articles, researchers found that men without sexual decline were more likely to be eating a Mediterranean diet compared to men with sexual decline.5

Men with type 2 diabetes who were the best at sticking with the Mediterranean diet were the least likely to have sexual decline and were more likely to be sexually active. In other clinical trials, the Mediterranean diet worked better than the control diet in reducing sexual decline.5 

Conquering Your Cravings

It’s not easy to stay away from sweets and sodas. Here are some tips for avoiding foods that are ruining your sex drive and eating more foods that boost libido:

  • Don’t let yourself get overly hungry. Eat a healthy snack before going into a restaurant or grocery store. Without eating, your blood sugar drops, and you’re more likely to be tempted by forbidden foods on a restaurant menu or grocery store shelf.

  • Bake using stevia. This type of sweetener does not raise blood sugar levels or promote weight gain. 

  • Bring some healthy snacks with you when you leave your home. This will make it easier to resist the temptation of stopping at your favorite bakery.

  • Substitute unsweetened teas, water, and coconut water for sodas. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Food and Libido

What are the best foods for libido?

Foods that help increase libido include vegetables, salmon, nuts, seeds, and beets. Foods that are high in zinc like oysters, lobster, and crab are also good for libido.

On the other hand, foods and drinks that are bad for libido include anything sweetened with sugar, as well as soft drinks and fruit juices. These types of foods spike glucose levels, which interferes with healthy blood flow. Eating lots of sugary foods and drinks also leads to weight gain, which is linked to low sex drive. 

What are the foods that lower testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone important for a healthy libido. Yet, certain foods and beverages can cause your testosterone levels to tank. Testosterone-lowering foods and drinks include sweets like cakes, pies, cookies, baked goods, soft drinks, fruit juice, and even energy drinks if they include sugar. These types of foods and beverages lead to weight gain, which in turn lowers testosterone levels. 

What are causes of low libido in men?

  • Many things can cause low libido in men. These include:

  • Exhaustion

  • Too little sleep

  • Stress

  • Alcohol

  • Overweight or obesity

  • Medications

  • Depression

  • Unhealthy diet

If you have low sex drive, getting a check-up at your doctor’s is a good idea.  They can evaluate your medications and test to see if you suffer from any health conditions that may impact your libido, such as diabetes. 

Missed part one of our 90-Day Challenge? Read it now to start experiencing the best sex of your life.