FRIDAY, March 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Preliminary research in a small number of men suggests that the “love hormone” oxytocin may reduce appetite, potentially turning it into a tool for weight loss.
The new study tested a synthetic nasal formulation of oxytocin, and found the hormone treatment reduced the number of calories that men consumed, especially calories from fatty foods.
“We are seeing early signs that oxytocin reduces how much food someone eats at a meal and improves the way their body handles blood sugar,” said study lead author Dr. Elizabeth Lawson, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The hormone oxytocin is linked to many activities that bond people together, including sex, hugging, kissing, holding hands, giving birth and breast-feeding. In medicine, it’s used to induce labor, manage bleeding in mothers after birth and coax out breast milk in nursing women, Lawson said.
The researchers launched their study into oxytocin’s potential effects on eating because research in animals has suggested that the hormone helps the body regulate food intake, she said. “Not much is known about oxytocin effects on appetite and food consumption in humans,” Lawson added.
In the new study, the researchers randomly assigned 25 men (12 of whom were overweight or obese) to either take synthetic oxytocin via nasal spray or an inactive placebo. The men did not know which spray they were given. The average age of the participants was 27, according to the study.
After receiving either the hormone or placebo, the men ordered breakfast from a menu. They were given double portions of whatever they ordered. At the end of the meal, the researchers measured how much food was eaten.
The men later returned and did the experiment again, but this time they received the placebo if they’d taken oxytocin the previous time, or the reverse.
Those who took the oxytocin ate 122 fewer calories, on average, the study found. They also consumed less fatty food — about 9 fewer fat grams on average. That translates to about 80 fewer calories from fatty food.