Ten things you never knew about Lust and Love

13 February 2007

The deluge of red and pink cards and envelopes in the shops can only mean one thing - it's Valentines' Day again.

And to celebrate this time of love and togetherness, the Royal Society of Chemistry has come up with ten things you never knew about lust and love, taken from its recently published Lust and Love - Is it more than chemistry?  book by Gabriele and Rolf Frobose. 

1. The cuddle hormone

Oxytocin - the "cuddle" hormone - is why women like to cuddle up after sex. Their oxytocin levels are much higher after sexual encounters, creating a feeling of closeness and comfort. Men also have oxytocin, but it is compensated for by higher levels of testosterone - so they are less prone to cuddling!

2. 3kg of lipstick in a lifetime!

Miss average will put on around 3kg of lipstick on her lips throughout her lifetime. 92 per cent of women in industrialised countries use lipstick, and it is at the top of the league of items most frequently shoplifted.

3. The sweat effect

The smell of a man's sweat may not be the turn off one might think - an experiment at Northumbria University in 2000 asked 16 students to judge the looks of various men in pictures. Then without the girls' knowledge, a cloth soaked in male sweat was placed in the room and the experiment repeated - with phenomenal results. Men previously judged unattractive were seen in a new light. Even those judged the least attractive in the first viewing were able to catch up to their more handsome rivals in the second viewing. So men could try wiping their sweat on their handkerchief and leaving it showing when they ask out a potential date!

4. The love hormone

Dopamine is a hormone which people in love have generally much higher levels of than those who are unattached. Not enough dopamine can lead to Parkinson's disease or Schizophrenia, while too much can make one a little too amorous - is this why Casanova became pathologically addicted to love?

5. Men and women fancying each other

Is there such a thing as love at first sight? If a woman fancies a man, she will look to make eye contact early in the conversation - even if she is shy! If a man fancies a woman, he will quickly begin asking her questions about herself - but if he doesn't, he will make bland general observations about the weather or other generic topics!

Lust and Love - Is it more than just chemistry?

Lust and Love - is it more than just chemistry?

6. The direct approach - men like it, women don't!

American psychologist David Buss carried out a survey on the pulling tactics used by the sexes and found - unsurprisingly - that men are turned on by women wearing tight fitting, revealing clothes; that dance provocatively and have long legs and swinging hips. Most men would also be receptive to a woman "grinding" herself up against him at a bar. Women were much less impressed by corresponding approaches by men - with the study concluding men like explicit behaviour in women, whereas women find it objectionable and sometimes repulsive in men.

7. Sex cures your headache!

Whenever we have sex, we release morphine-like substances called endorphins into our bodies. These hormones - from a group called opiates - are both pleasure causing and natural painkillers - thus sex can cure your headache! Couples who are close are full of these opiates, as are a mother and her new born baby. It is this shared "high" that contributes to the formation of the mother-baby bond.

8. Perfume - chemistry made it cheaper!

Many of the natural fragrants used in perfumes are incredibly expensive, so have been replaced by cheaper synthetic alternatives. Although many people would no doubt prefer the real thing, the cost of preparing - for example - one kilogram of attar of roses requires five tonnes of petals, costing some 3,500! Thus synthetic chemistry has made perfumes affordable to the masses.

9. Oysters - aphrodisiac or myth?

Oysters are believed to aphrodisiacs the world over - China and Japan attribute miraculous effects to the Asian Oyster Crassostrea gigas. The Danes go even further - their traditional name for the Oyster is kudefisk, which literally means vulva fish!
However, the Oyster does not have much to offer by way of active ingredients, and it is more likely its semi-liquidity, its somewhat evocative appearance and the taste of salt and sea that are responsible for any love inducing effects! The suggestion of luxury associated with a dinner of oysters by candlelight could also reinforce this "placebo" effect.

10. Eyes not nose to find a mate

Throughout evolution, our ancestors have gradually trust their eyes more than their noses - researchers believe that we are not very good at responding to chemical signals in mating. Some of our primate cousins are much better however - while we always look at each other before mating - the squirrel monkey, much more adept with its nose - will sniff at a potential mate.

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