Vitamin And Mineral Supplements

Are vitamin and mineral supplements a waste of money? Three research papers out this week all say they are. People who are well-nourished, the scientists concluded, gain no benefit from pills.

I wrote extensively about supplements in my book Help Yourself To Live Longer. What concerns me about these reports is the impression that no one needs supplements. I remain convinced that many individuals do. I set out a sort of hierarchy of vitamins and minerals in my book, beginning with those that are most important.

At the top of my list came vitamin B12. The elderly can’t absorb vitamin B12 very efficiently from food, while vegans and vegetarians generally don’t eat food that contains it. The Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA) found that supplementation with B12 after age 60 (together with folic acid and B6) slowed brain shrinkage by 30 per cent on average and in some cases by 50 per cent. That’s enormous.

DHA/EPA came next on my list as the most important forms of omega-3 fatty acids. If you eat oily fish twice a week you won’t need the supplement but many people eat no fish at all. Flaxseed oil is a big help but very few people use it. DHA/EPA has many benefits including keeping cell membranes flexible, combating arteriosclerosis, and lowering blood pressure.

Then there’s vitamin D, important for the bones, in which 70 per cent of American children have been found to be deficient. And many women have been prescribed calcium by their doctors to slow or prevent osteoporosis.

If you’d like to read the full details I suggest you get hold of a copy of the book.


I’ve just been reading some books on infidelity including Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel and How Can I Ever Trust You Again? by Andrew G Marshall. Perel takes the view that monogamy is an outdated concept and that while affairs are rightly the end of some relationships they may even improve others.

A question that’s often asked about all this is: Are humans naturally monogamous? A lot of people seem to think this crucial. But it’s completely the wrong question. The human species, as I’m often pointing out, is the only species that can be unnatural. Being unnatural is what separates us from all other animals.

It may be natural to eat meat but we can decide not to. It may be natural to let hair grow where and how it will but nobody does. It is unnatural to fly but millions of us do. Asking what’s natural is totally irrelevant. The right question is: Which is more conducive to happiness in a relationship, monogamy or unfaithfulness?

The answer won’t be the same for everybody but I think that for the majority of people the answer is pretty clear.

An often quoted statistic cited to prove that humans aren’t monogamous in practice is this: Over the lifetime of a relationship between 30 and 40 per cent of people will be unfaithful at some point. But that certainly doesn’t prove it to me. Let’s take a married couple together for forty years who had sex an average of twice a week. That’s 4,160 bonks. Now let’s suppose the man had a one year affair also averaging sex twice a week. That’s 104 bonks. That means 98 per cent of the man’s bonk were with his wife while, for her, all of her sex was with her husband. That doesn’t sound to me like the death of monogamy.

A long time ago when I was recently divorced I was also meeting a lot of recently divorced women and something struck me very forcibly. It was taking two years for those women to get over the whole thing just on a superficial level. Deep down I’m sure it was taking longer. How much pain was due to the husband’s unfaithfulness and how much to the divorce I can’t say, nor can I say how those women would have felt if the marriage had survived. But what I saw made me introduce my own rule: Never mess around in someone else’s life. In other words, if you’ve promised to be faithful to another person you’d better think very carefully before breaking that promise. And there’s also the ‘other woman’ and the ‘other man’ to consider – if that other person is looking for a serious relationship and you’re not then you have no right to wreck that other person’s happiness by pretending.

Marriage counsellor Andrew G Marshall disagrees with Perel on many counts but accepts that affairs can have a happy outcome.’ The most miserable couples I ever see are the couples who are trying to recover from an affair,’ he says. ‘But equally, the happiest couples I end up with are the couples who have recovered from an affair. Affairs make you scrutinise every element of your relationship, more so than any other issue. And so if you do survive them, you will be stronger and happier as a result than you ever were before.’

What’s significant here is the assumption that you can only ‘scrutinise’ your relationship when one of you has had an affair. The fact is, time, energy and money that’s expended on an affair is time, energy and money that’s not going into the regular relationship. I’d suggest seeing what happens when you do focus on your long-term relationship. The result might be incredible.


There’s a big article in this week’s Sunday Telegraph about Professor Sherry Turkle and her fears over the potentially harmful effects of new technology and especially about the hazards of sexting. The article reports that:

‘An estimated 40 per cent of people under 18, some as young as 11, have sent or received sexually explicit photos, with the same proportion believing there is “nothing wrong” with sending or receiving a topless photograph.’

Could it be the reason they think there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with it is that, indeed, there is nothing wrong with it?

There are reasons it may not be a good idea to sext a picture of your breasts, your vulva or your penis to a boyfriend or girlfriend. But that’s not because there’s anything ‘wrong’ with breasts, vulvas or penises.

I always feel very disturbed when words such as ‘lewd’, ‘obscene’ and ‘pornography’ enter this discussion. They make people feel bad about themselves and bad about sex. Some youngsters have felt suicidal over private photos finding their way onto public websites and that kind of language, and the attitude behind it, makes the situation even harder for them. To be told that your photos are ‘obscene’ or ‘lewd’ is only going to make you feel worse.

I would counsel any young person not to sext unless they’re perfectly happy for their classmates, their colleagues, their friends and acquaintances, their relatives and their parents to see the pictures. But if a youngster does sext, and if the pictures are subsequently distributed on the internet, that youngster needs to know that she or he has done nothing wrong. There’s nothing to get upset about, apart from the breach of trust. There’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Every female has a vulva, every male has a penis. It’s not a big deal.

Webcam Blackmail

The story is emerging of 17 year-old Daniel Perry, a victim of webcam blackmail, who last July jumped to his death from the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland. He thought he was Skyping a girl of his own age in Illinois but, in reality, he was being set up. The blackmailers then demanded money not to post the images on the internet. We don’t know exactly what images the blackmailers recorded but if Daniel had been showing his erect penis he wouldn’t be the first. Or even the millionth.

That someone could be pressured into suicide in this way shows that we’re just not living in the sexually open society that we think. In 1994 President Clinton sacked the Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders over her views on masturbation. All she had said, in response to a question about the role of masturbation in preventing AIDS was: ‘I think that it is part of human sexuality and perhaps it should be taught’.

Recently I blogged about the Masturbate-A-Thon in San Francisco, a commendable event designed to make people more open about one of their favourite activities. Numerous studies have shown that almost all men and the vast majority of women masturbate. Including presidents, prime ministers and princesses. Yet we’re all so coy about it.

The sad story of Daniel is far from an isolated case. Thousands of youngsters have been made to feel humiliated and, indeed, suicidal, after private pictures appeared on the internet. Educators need to make it plain. Everybody has genitals. Everybody masturbates. It’s not a big deal. And, yes, masturbation alone, as a couple, or in a group, is safe sex. Bring back Jocelyn Elders.

Beat Your Pain

An endorsement for my latest book Beat Your Pain And Find Lasting Relief (Teach Yourself) has come in the form of new research from the United States, where chronic pain is thought to affect nearly 116 million adults.

According to the Bravewell Practice-Based Research Network, patients experienced a 20 per cent drop in the severity of pain on average over 24 weeks on an ‘integrative approach’ and there were significant improvements in mood, stress levels, quality of life, energy, sleep and sense of well-being. An integrative approach means combining a range of therapies including acupuncture, mindfulness, yoga, massage, fitness, nutrition and psychotherapy.

Beat Your Pain covers those things and a lot more, such as non-prescription and prescription drugs, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), self-hypnosis, herbs and supplements, meditation, sleep, laughter therapy, electrical and ultrasound therapy, and… sex.

Why sex? There’s nothing flippant in the suggestion. It’s a fact that sex is a mild but very useful painkiller. Sex causes the release of dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ chemical, as well as PEA, an amphetamine-like substance that produces a ‘walking on air’ kind of feeling. The longer the sex the bigger the dose.

Sex is healthy and free. If you’d like to read more about the way sex combats pain and improves mood it’s all in How To Be Happier (Teach Yourself) while techniques for maximizing the effect are detailed in Have Great Sex (Teach Yourself). And don’t forget, Beat Your Pain is out at the end of August.

Masturbate-A-Thon Update

For those of you who have been wondering what happened at the Masturbate-A-Thon in San Francisco it apparently attracted just 250 participants or so, including voyeurs. Most who went were men and the event was only saved from total male domination by Lady Grace (pictured) and a small number of other female participants. This year the whole thing was streamed live on the internet, but whether or not it did much to dispel the taboo about masturbation remains to be seen. The Masturbate-A-Thon aims to make a serious point but it seems to be failing if this piece of journalism is anything to go by Still, any publicity is good publicity, I suppose.

Michael Douglas blames oral sex

Michael Douglas, the actor, has told the Guardian newspaper his throat cancer was not due to an excess of either alcohol or tobacco, as had been assumed, but cunnilingus. The fact that cunnilingus (and fellatio) can cause this type of cancer will have come as a terrifying revelation to many. Unfortunately, it’s true.

It’s all to do with the human papilloma virus (HPV) of which more than 120 versions have been identified. Some forms of HPV produce the warts on the skin of the hands and elsewhere that most people sometimes have. Most HPVs of this type are harmless and non-cancerous. The types that cause the vast majority of cervical cancers are HPV 16 and HPV 18. It’s HPV 16 which also causes the majority of sexually-linked oral cancers. They appear at the base of the tongue, the throat and the tonsils.

The good news is that this type of cancer is more susceptible to treatment than oral cancers caused by alcohol or tobacco, which is why Michael Douglas survived although his cancer was at an advanced stage when diagnosed.

The message is to take proper precautions to protect yourself. That means (a) don’t indulge in casual oral sex (b) if you’re a woman, have regular cervical checks, and (c) whatever your gender, if you’re having oral sex with partners whose health status you can’t be sure of, have annual screening for oral cancer. Here’s another thing. If you’re young, female or male, get the HPV vaccination. Lastly I’d say that if you’re in a monogamous relationship and you’re both healthy be appreciative of the tremendous pleasure you can take in all sexual techniques. Not everyone has that.


May, if you didn’t know it, is Masturbation Month and today (25th May) is the Masturbate-A-Thon at San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture. The event will raise money for charity but the main purpose is to get people talking about masturbation in an open, relaxed, guilt-free way. You get people to pledge a certain amount for every, say, minute or orgasm. The event runs from 7pm to 11pm with a special ‘women only’ area as well as a larger ‘all genders’ area. The organisers point out that the Masturbate-A-Thon also allows people to participate in group sex without risk. However if you’re not in San Francisco you can still participate at home, which is what most people will be doing. If you’d like more information go to

In my book Have Great Sex I listed plenty of reasons why everyone should masturbate as much as possible. Here they are (with slight variations according to gender):

  • Masturbation teaches you how to orgasm/control orgasm
  • Masturbation helps you become more responsive
  • Masturbation teaches you about your own body
  • Masturbation teaches you about your partner’s body (because men and women are far more similar than you might imagine)
  • Masturbation lets you test techniques in private before getting together with your partner
  • Masturbation provides sexual activity vital to mental and physical health when no partner is available
  • Masturbation keeps your sexual organs in good working order
  • Masturbation releases tension
  • Masturbation is readily available
  • Masturbation is free
  • Masturbation is safe
  • Masturbation is good for the prostate (men only)
  • Masturbation can relieve period pains (women only)
  • Masturbation releases pain-killing endorphins
  • Masturbation makes you happy.

And, of course, you don’t have to masturbate on your own. You can do it with your partner and, as the Masturbate-A-Thon shows, you can do it in a group – there’s still a week of May to go. By the way, the masturbation record stands at close to 10 hours.


Pornography is not well taught in English schools according to Ofsted (the body that inspects them). In general, 60% of schools are good or outstanding in PSHE (Personal Social Health & Economic Education), but when it comes specifically to pornography almost no schools are up to scratch.

Now you may not think it’s the job of schools to teach pornography. But pornography is something even young children have to deal with.

According to my dictionary, pornography is books, pictures, films and the like ‘designed to stimulate sexual excitement’. So we’re talking about a pretty wide range of material. In fact, it’s far too wide a term to be of much use when it comes to framing policies.

I certainly have nothing against material designed to stimulate sexual excitement. Pornography is a fact of life and has been ever since men fashioned representations of naked women and their vulvas from bits of stone and painted them on the walls of caves. Is sex wrong? No. Is it wrong to be sexually excited? No. So is it wrong for anyone to produce material with the intention of causing sexual excitement? Logically, no.

But there definitely is a worry when it comes to certain pornography being seen by children. What are nine year-olds to make of a scene, for example, where a man ties a naked woman to a cross and beats her with a whip? Or in which a girl is raped? There’s no way nine year-olds have the resources to evaluate those images. What will they make of sex? What will their own sex lives be like?

I don’t have the answer. But I’m quite certain it’s important to give children the tools they need to be able to deal with the pornography they’re inevitably going to see. I think Ofsted is right about this. I hope schools will improve.

If you have a view about the impact of pornography on children please share it with us by clicking on ‘comment’ above.

What Turns Women On?

A question I often get asked by men is, ‘What turns women on?’. I can only know what women tell me, of course. And what I read in research papers. Generally, guys, it’s not rubbing her clitoris or anything like that. At least, not initially – that comes later.

Here are some of the things that, in a long term relationship, you can do to put your partner in the mood:

  • Wash the dishes
  • Help with the housework
  • Be supportive when she has worries
  • Show your appreciation for her.

If you were hoping for something more erotic then I’m sorry to disappoint you. And, of course, it’s no good doing the dishes only when you want sex. It’s not that washing plates is sexy in itself. It isn’t. The point is that when a woman feels valued, loved and cared-for, so she feels the desire to welcome you into her body. That means showing your appreciation all the time. Which, as it happens, is also the recipe for a happy relationship. So what’s not to like?

Ladies, I’d like to hear from you as to what turns you on. Please click on the word ‘comment’ at the top of this article.

Sex As Good As It Gets

Going up on the chairlift the other day (I’m in the French Alps at the moment) I was sitting next to a guy who asked me what I did for a living.

‘Writer,’ I said.

‘And what do you write?’

‘Sex manuals,’ I said. I could have mentioned other books but I always enjoy the effect sex manuals have.

He rubbed his chin. ‘How can anybody be sure,’ he asked, ‘if they’re good in bed?’ He seriously wanted to know. ‘I mean, how can I know if the pleasure I’m giving my partner is the best? How can I know if what I’m feeling is as good as it gets?’

Good questions.

It’s a bit like trying to find out if the colour I see and call green is the same as the colour you see and call green.

On a scale of one to ten the guy might say his last sexual experience was a nine, but how do I know if his ten is the same as my ten? What Jill thinks of as the ultimate in sexual pleasure may have only half the intensity of what Jane feels on a good day.

It’s common for sex writers and therapists to say you shouldn’t be concerned with performance and targets and numbers, but I don’t agree. I’m currently struggling to improve my snowboard technique. That in no way detracts from my pleasure. On the contrary. No one, I’m sure, would seriously suggest it would be okay to remain forever at the level I attained at the end of my first week. So why is it wrong to want to give your partner the maximum possible sexual pleasure and to receive the same? Why is it wrong to want to discover how far you can go?

I thought I’d discovered the secret of the universe when I was 18. How could anybody else have sex this good? Now those early experiences seem totally inept. What then seemed to be a ten now looks like a one.

I can’t define ten in sex and I can’t know I’ve ever reached ten but I’d say it can’t be anything like ten unless:

  • Sex goes on for a good while (say, an hour), because the human body just can’t reach its maximum response during a quickie.
  • The afterglow lasts a good while (say, four hours at least).
  • There’s a sense not only of physical satisfaction, but also of emotional, spiritual and intellectual satisfaction as well.

I’m not saying that’s everything, but it’s a good start. The guy on the lift promised to buy either Have Great Sex or Get Intimate With Tantric Sex and let me know if it changed his perspective. If you have any thoughts on what constitutes the greatest sex, or the rights or wrongs of aiming for a great ‘performance’, share them with us by clicking on the word ‘comment’ at the top of this blog. And, Ian, I’ll be expecting to hear from you.


A Merry XXXmas!

If you had to choose between food and sex, which would you go for? I pose the question because, as regular readers of my blog will know, there does seem to be a trade-off. Revel in food and the resulting spare tyre means you can’t revel in sex as much as you would have done.

Probably the worst time of the year for sex, then, is the Christmas/New Year holiday. Which means that all the sexy underwear from Father Christmas is going to waste. Christmas just isn’t a very good time for the art of love. There’s all that shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning, not to mention the guests in the spare bedroom. And, of course, the overeating.

Research by Carnegie Weight Management suggests the typical Christmas lunch with all the trimmings would have amounted to about two thousand calories. Add in breakfast, supper, drinks and snacks during the day and plenty of revellers would have downed as much as four thousand or even six thousand calories.

Just to remind you, there’s a theory that if the ratio of your waist to your hips exceeds 0.9 for a man or 0.85 for a woman then your sex drive and performance will be compromised. Well, I’ve been testing this out. And after a bit of a struggle I finally got down to the magic ratio on Christmas Day. That’s to say my waist measures 84.5 cm and my hips measure 94 cm, and dividing the former by the latter produces 0.899.

It was actually harder than I thought it would be, because as you lose weight around your middle you also tend to lose it around your hips, so the ratio doesn’t change that much. You have to do something to build up your thigh and buttock muscles and in my case it was cycling. And on Christmas Day itself a touch of snowboarding.

So has it worked? Well – and I’m trying to be scientific here – I think it has. Not that I exactly had love handles the size of elephants’ ears anyway. And, of course, the effects of these kinds of things are fairly subtle. Sex drive and performance are not constants and it’s not always easy to work out what was the cause of any change.

All I can say is, give it a go. Put that Christmas lunch firmly behind you and resolve that in the New Year those love handles will be no more.

Meanwhile, if any of you have stories or data on the relationship between your sexual prowess and your waist:hip ratio please share them with us by clicking on ‘comments’. Or, indeed, if your sex drive suffered (or increased) when you put on weight that would also be interesting.

So which will it be for you? Food or sex? Which makes you happiest? I’ve made my own decision. I’d rather have more sex and less food, rather than the other way around. So my own Christmas lunch was muesli eaten out of a plastic pot in the car park of my nearest ski station. I was about to write that sometimes you have to forego a pleasure in the search for a greater happiness. But, actually, it’s not true. The muesli was great!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you a 0.9 (or 0.85) New Year.