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Sex has its benefits

I have always loved books. New, old, fiction, nonfiction, history, science, I can get into it all.

But even a book omnivore like me can get a little discouraged by some of the stuff that crosses the desk of a health editor. My current crop includes titles like 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life, 101 Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol, 365 Ways to Look and Feel Younger and a box set of Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard.

Each one worthy, I'm sure, but all seem to be demanding action or snarling at me.

There's another book that's been on my desk for a few months now, entirely because I liked the title: Why Women Have Sex. Having finally picked it up, I'm finding it hard to put down.

Authors Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss are psychology professors at the University of Texas at Austin, where she directs the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory. He has written acclaimed books like The Evolution of Desire.

Anyway, Why Women Have Sex (Times Books, $25) is packed with information and insights that women and those who love us will find fascinating. The authors interviewed more than 1,000 women about their sexual experiences and motivations. Their stories may have you nodding in recognition, tearing up in sympathy and sometimes just highly entertained.

I particularly liked the "Sexual Medicine'' chapter, which includes these nuggets:

• A study found that of 58 women who had sex during a migraine, half got at least some pain relief. (Three said an orgasm made their headache worse.) Other reports have found that sex often helps relieve pain, such as from arthritis and muscular dystrophy.

• A sexual session can burn 100 to 250 calories. By the authors' calculation, the average American woman burns 3.78 pounds of fat a year having sex.

• Sex can ease menstrual cramps by changing how prostaglandins — hormones that cause cramps — affect the body. It also can shorten the duration of periods, and makes women less likely to develop endometriosis.

• Prolonged stress has some people taking anti-anxiety drugs to calm their spiking heart rate and blood pressure. Some women say sex works just as well.

• The body releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that explain "runner's high,'' during orgasm. It also releases prolactin, a hormone linked to sleep, especially in men.

• Sex and longevity are associated — but there's a catch. For men, it's the frequency of sex; for women, it's how much they enjoyed it. In other words, quantity and quality.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Sex has its benefits 02/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 3:30am]

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