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"Love hormone" oxytocin reduces calorie intake

Oxytocin reduces caloric intake

The so-called "love hormone" oxytocin may aid in weight loss by reducing caloric intake, according to a new study.


Twenty-five males -- 13 who were healthy and of normal weight and 12 who were healthy but obese -- with a mean age of 27 participated in the study. They were asked to choose their preferences for a breakfast meal and then offered twice as much food as they requested. The participants were given either a synthetic oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo. They returned two weeks later and were switched to the other spray.

After measuring food consumption, the researchers found that those who took the oxytocin supplement ate 122 fewer calories on average. They also ate nine fewer grams of fat.

"We studied the effect of a single dose of oxytocin on food intake and metabolism on healthy men," lead researcher Elizabeth Lawson, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School told MedPage Today. "And basically what we found is that after receiving oxytocin men ate less at a breakfast meal, they burned more fat, and they handled their blood sugar better. This was a single-dose study so there is a lot we need to learn, but it is promising in terms of its potential use in the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes."

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Lawson also said that the oxytocin spray did not appear to affect heart rate or blood pressure. The participants did suffer drowsiness, dizziness, abdominal pain and nasal irritation, but none of the of side effects were considered severe. She also said the results need to be confirmed with a longer study and with women.

Lawson said it was unclear from the study how oxytocin affects the appetite.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego on March 8.

Previous studies have found that oxytocin can help children with autism and help individuals who suffer from shyness by improving their empathy.