Oxytocin: The “Love Hormone”



Researchers are excited about a new discovery involving an old hormone. In a small, but promising study, researchers found that oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” helps men lose weight. A sniff of a synthetic version of the hormone has proven helpful because men consumed fewer calories, even after being allowed free reign in choosing menu items.

Dr. Elisabeth Lawson, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School is “excited” about the results, adding that oxytocin is a promising treatment for both obesity and insulin problems.

In the study, 25 men, 13 of which were obese, fasted and then had either a blast of oxytocin or a placebo in the nasal cavity. They were then instructed to eat a hearty breakfast one hour later. The participants ate 122 fewer calories and 9 fewer grams of fat.

Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” because the body excretes it during coitus and cuddling.  Previous studies on the hormone have shown it beneficial outside of the bedroom as well. It is effective in blocking alcohol’s path to the brain. A study at two separate universities working in conjunction gave lab rats a large supply of wine. The experimental group was then given a dose of oxytocin, while the control group was given none. The rats with oxytocin in their system ended up less inebriated than those who had alcohol. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Michael Bowens, believes biochemistry may play a role in the findings. Although oxytocin may eliminate drunkenness, alcohol is still present in the body, which calls for an extra measure of caution, especially if driving. Regendsburg University and the University of Sydney conducted the study.

oxytocinYoung women experiencing trouble with anorexia may want to try oxytocin therapy to help fight their food fixations. In the study, 31 anorexic patients and 33 normal patients were given oxytocin or a placebo. Study participants were asked to look at images related to weight, body shape and high and low caloric foods before and after taking the medication. Afterwards, anorexic patients did not focus on food images or fat bodies. Youl-Ri Kim a study researcher, claims that oxytocin reduced the patient’s unconscious want or need to focus up negativity. Although this research is in its infancy, Kim believes its findings have the potential to be “ground-breaking.” Kim, from the University of Seoul in South Korea worked with Janet Treasure, at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry in this study.

Additionally, the use of oxytocin has proved helpful with those affected by autism. Using a nasal spray, researchers in Japan found that it quickly improved study participant’s ability to read facial cues and emotions. Just as in the alcohol study, only male subjects were utilized. Those who were considered “high functioning” were studied. This means that they were more verbal than those with severe autism. In the study the spray, when administered, boosted the neural activity in the brain associated with empathy. Study doctor Hidenori Yamasue from the University of Tokyo, believes that even “low-functioning “ autistic patients might be able to derive a benefit from the use of an oxytocin nasal spray.

By Danielle Branch

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Photo Courtesy of Tony Alter – Flickr License
Photo Courtesy of Greg Jordan – Flickr License