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Surprising Science

‘Love Drug’ Oxytocin May Help Men Consume Fewer Calories

Researchers have been experimenting with oxytocin to find it has a range of beneficial effects — one of the most recent being in calorie control.

Oxytocin, otherwise known as the “bonding hormone” or the “love drug,” is an interesting chemical that plays a prominent role in romantic relationships and maternal bonding. Some studies have been experimenting with it recently to find, when administered via a nasal spray, its beneficial effects can reach as far as treating some symptoms of schizophrenia to autism.

Dr. Elizabeth Lawson of Harvard Medical School has added calorie control to the list of beneficial things oxytocin may be able to do. In her recent study, 25 men were split into two groups and were given a nasal spray to self-administer — one contained a placebo and the other contained oxytocin. After an hour had passed, the men were asked to select their breakfast off a menu (they had fasted prior to the meal). The meals they received contained double portions. The researchers then calculated how many calories each man had consumed when they were done.

On a separate visit, two groups switched with the placebo group receiving a dose of oxytocin and vice versa. The results, in a press release on EurekAlert! read:

“On average, the men ate 122 fewer calories and 9 grams less fat at the meal after they received oxytocin nasal spray compared with placebo, the study data showed. Oxytocin also reportedly increased the use of body fat as a fuel for energy. There were no serious side effects and no difference in side effects between oxytocin and placebo, according to Lawson.”

The study’s results become all the more curious when researchers reported that participants who received the oxytocin didn’t feel any more or less hungry than the placebo group. Likewise, their appetite-regulating hormones told the same story.

The study has led to more questions than answers. Lawson has plans to study the effects of oxytocin in women, as well as how it interacts with other appetite-regulating hormones.

Read more at EurekAlert!.

Photo Credit: Jamie McCaffrey/Flickr


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