A new study has found that administering a single dose of nasal spray containing the hormone Oxytocin led to reduced caloric intake in healthy men. In particular, the synthetic nasal formulation reduced the consumption of high calorie, fatty foods.
The findings of the study were presented at the 97th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society and confirmed previous animal studies demonstrating that oxytocin reduces food intake, Medical News Today reported.
“Our results are really exciting,” lead investigator Dr. Elizabeth Lawson of Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA said. “Further study is needed, but I think oxytocin in a promising treatment for obesity and its metabolic complications.”
While oxytocin nasal spray reduced the number of calories that men consumed at a subsequent breakfast, it also improved certain metabolic characteristics such as insulin sensitivity – the body’s ability to clear glucose from the bloodstream.
Oxytocin is commonly referred to as “the love hormone” due to its association with parts of the brain involved in emotional, cognitive and social behaviors. Acts of intimacy between partners stimulate the release of oxytocin in both men and women.
Experts have also proven that oxytocin interacts with the same reward system that many drugs taken to produce euphoria act upon – driven by the neurotransmitter dopamine.
While the oxytocin nasal spray used in the study has been approved abroad in Europe, in the US it can only be used in clinical trials. However, oxytocin is available for use in the US as a drug to induce labor.
The study randomly assigned 25 healthy men with an average age of 27-years-old to take a dose of either oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo after fasting. While otherwise healthy, 12 of the participants were considered overweight and 13 were a healthy weight.
One hour after self-administering their treatment, the participants were served a breakfast of their choosing from a menu. Each meal option contained double portions and after the meal was consumed, researchers studied how many calories each participant cate.
The participants then returned at a later date and the experiment was repeated, which each participant receiving the opposite treatment to what they previously received. In the 3 days before each experiment, the participants reported eating the same amount of food.
On average, researchers found the men ate 122 less calories and 9g less fat at the meal after administering a dose of the oxytocin nasal spray in comparison with the placebo. The oxytocin nasal spray also appeared to increase the use of body fat as fuel for energy, Medical News Today reported.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and additional funding was received from a Massachusetts General Hospital Claflin Distinguished Scholar Award.