It may sound too good to be true but the secret of prolonged youth is much simpler than strict dietary regimes and expensive cosmetics, well, thats what some experts would like to believe.

They believe that the most effective way to keep your looks, according to the latest comprehensive research, is to maintain an active love life.

Couples who make love three times a week look seven years more youthful than their less romantically inclined counterparts, says the study, which interviewed people aged between 18 and 100.

‘Improving the quality of one’s sex life can help a person to look between four and seven years younger,’ says consultant neuropsychologist Dr David Weeks, who has made a 10 years study of the subject.

A good sex life leads to greater contentment, significant reductions in stress, better sleep and, in men, an increase in testosterone output. The study also concluded that people who look younger are more altruistic, confident and have more intellectual activity.

Dr Weeks questioned more than 3,500 volunteers during a decade of research into the secrets of youthful appearance and behaviour.He concluded that genetic factors were only 25 per cent responsible for youthful looks while behaviour was 75 per cent the cause. And one of the main behavioural factors was sex as part of a long-term relationship.

Dr Weeks warns that it is loving intercourse with a regular partner, and not promiscuous sexual activity, which gives the most benefit.”Casual sex would bring a lot of the detrimental things to staying youthful such as anxiety and the absence of security. Both those things are associated with a loss of youth.”

Hence,Casual encounters with many different partners did not have the same effect, it was found. Also, the other factors contributing to ageing were found to be smoking, exposure to the sun and stress.

‘The significance of the sex factor came as a surprise.As much as other physical activity, sex is an important part of life for the “super-young” from late adolescence or early adulthood throughout their entire lives.’Said Dr. Weeks, head of old age psychology at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, His study adds that sex releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain that can relieve headaches and even arthritis.Sex is the most intense kind of pleasure and that triggers certain chemicals. In women it produces a human growth hormone which helps the process. Regular, loving sex came second to physical and mental activity as the factors most important to retaining youth.Regular lovemaking also boosts the body’s natural defences against infection.

Dr Weeks, who has written a book” Secrets of the Superyoung” based on his research, said: ‘Like a number of other stimulating sensations, sex releases a group of substances in the brain, among them the beta-endorphins, natural painkillers that can also alleviate anxiety.’

As well as sex, Dr Weeks and his team of researchers found that any form of regular exercise helped preserve youthful looks.

One of the first longitudinal studies of aging begun at Duke University in the ’50s and reported in the December 1982 journal Gerontologist found that the frequency of sexual intercourse (for men) and the enjoyment of sex (for women) predicted longevity. Other studies have found that sexual dissatisfaction was a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease.

Michael Roizen

Michael Roizen’s reading of the research and his clinical work have led him to believe that sex keeps us younger because it “decreases stress, relaxes us, enhances intimacy, and helps … personal relationships.” Although no study has yet proven a cause-and-effect relationship between good sex and longevity, there seems to be a beneficial system at work here — a sort of virtuous cycle of sex and health reinforcing one another.

Although it may gross out young people to hear it (especially about their parents), older people do continue to have sex, according to the MacArthur Foundation report “Successful Aging” by John W. Rowe, MD, and Robert L. Kahn, PhD. They cite a Duke University study published in the November 1974 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that found that “at age 68, about 70% of men were sexually active on a regular basis” but that this number dropped to 25% by age 78.

A  study, published in the January 1990 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, reported that nearly 74% of married men over 60 remain sexually active, as do 56% of married women

While men may experience a gradual decline in sexual libido as their testosterone levels slowly diminish, women experience a wider range of effects as a result of the more complex hormonal changes that occur with menopause.

Dr.Susan Love

For both men and women, the best way to maintain sexuality in later years is never to stop making love. “The vagina is one organ where use makes a difference,” says Susan Love, MD, in Dr. Susan Love’s Hormone Book. Men, too, may find that arousal comes more easily when sexual activity is maintained regularly, although the normal sexual diminution that comes in their 70s and beyond may require some adjustment and variation.

If you want to have an Indian perspective there lies a seeming contradictions of Indian attitudes towards sex which possibley can be best  explained through the context of history. However,conservative views of sexuality are the usual norm in the modern republic of India. Still sex is considered a taboo. Still people think twice before explaining to their children how they were born.

However, if we consider kama Sutra, it shows that the marriage and love making is a spiritual and sensual thing. It comes from the big Indian belief that human body is as sacred as the spirit of the person. A meaning of “Kama”  is “sensual love”, or the emotional feeling of the attachment. In Bhagwat Geeta it is the source of attachment to the world and the great impediment to spiritual freedom.

So does sex itself really extend our lives or prevent heart attacks?

This claim is difficult to prove. Yes, sex and good health are usually linked, – in most of the studies and the expert observations — but which one is the chicken and which the egg? Does sex contribute to good health or does good health make regular sex possible? That is something that needs to be answered.