Israeli scientists are constantly publishing groundbreaking studies with potential for improving life and health in myriad ways, from a better understanding of cancer and sleep disorders to deeper insights into post-traumatic stress disorder and workplace dynamics.
Here are 10 eye-opening insights into sexuality and fertility found by Israeli researchers over the past few years.
Building intimacy and responsiveness outside the bedroom keeps desire alive in established couples, according to a study by researchers from IDC Herzliya and the University of Rochester.
Both genders, but particularly women, reported feeling more amorous when their partners made them feel special in a non-sexual way. The researchers say that’s because it increases the responsive partner’s perceived “mate value” in the eyes of the partner receiving the attention.
Curiously, the results of the above study were reversed when the same researchers examined how emotional responsiveness from a stranger of the opposite sex affects desire.
Most men found responsive women more sexually attractive, while females were slightly less interested in pursuing a relationship with emotionally responsive male strangers.
The authors suggest that in conversations with potential partners, a woman may suspect that a man’s sensitivity hides dishonorable intentions, but she values that same responsiveness in a man who has earned her trust over time.
Satisfying sex and a satisfying meal – two pleasurable experiences that also expose people to bacteria and contaminants – activate the brain’s reward center, which in turn transmits messages via the sympathetic nervous system to boost the body’s immune defenses, according to research from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
This mechanism is logical, the scientists point out. Because we are likely to repeat activities that make us feel good, it is in the body’s interest to create stronger immune-system memory against the pathogens those activities typically introduce.
Men wishing to be fathers should reduce use of cell phones and keep them at arms’ length, according to a study done at Haifa’s Carmel Medical Center.
Regularly talking on a cell phone for more than an hour a day, and talking on the phone when it is connected to a charger, was found to double the likelihood of decreased sperm concentration. Abnormal concentrations of sperm also were found in men who carry their phone no more than 50 centimeters (20 inches) from the groin.
The culprit is thought to be the small amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted from the phones. Since sperm quality accounts for 40% of infertility problems among couples, the lead researcher suggests men use a headset or hands-free kit and not sleep next to phones that are on or charging.
A high-calorie breakfast was shown to increase fertility in women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), in a study conducted by Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University researchers.
The study examined whether timing of meals impacts two factors that cause infertility in women with PCOS: insulin resistance and increased male sex hormones (androgens).
Participants who consumed their most calorie-intense meal in the morning, rather than at night, experienced dramatically lowered testosterone levels and moderately decreased levels of glucose and insulin resistance. They also had a much higher rate of ovulation.
Tears contain a chemical that reduces sexual arousal in men, according to a study done at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Merely sniffing female tears on an absorbent pad is enough to cause a dip in testosterone and a significant reduction in activity levels in brain areas associated with sexual arousal.
The researchers found that smelling tears didn’t affect the men’s ability to decipher sadness or empathy expressed in women’s faces, but it did lessen how much sex appeal the men attributed to those faces.
Sexual desire isn’t only a question of hormones and psychology but also genetics, according to a Hebrew University researcher who showed for the first time that common variations in the sequence of DNA in the D4 receptor gene – now known as the “love gene” — affect the level of every individual’s sexual desire, arousal and function.
According to a study from Bar-Ilan University, the secret to long-lasting love is oxytocin, a hormone affecting sexual reproduction, maternal bonding and anxiety.
Out of 60 couples in the study, those who ended up staying together were found to have had higher blood levels of oxytocin during their courtship than did those who broke up. Couples with the highest levels of the hormone were still together six months after the start of the study.
It’s either long life or more sex but not both, according to an Israeli and international study that showed reduced reproductive rates and a plant-rich diet lengthen the lifespan of reptiles.
The researchers noted that reproduction is physically and emotionally stressful for reptile mothers, and makes them more vulnerable to predators. Moreover, snakes and lizards with earlier sexual maturation died younger. Herbivorous diets, colder climates and larger body sizes also were found to promote longevity.
Whether the study conclusions could be applied to humans isn’t known yet.
An Ariel University study was the first to test empirically the common notion regarding sexual manipulation as a way for one spouse to influence purchasing decisions while a couple is on vacation. Researchers found that the spouse perceived to have less power in the marriage was more likely to use sex as a “spousal influence strategy.”