Ditch the keto diet, scales and any strategy you’ve been convinced will help you lose weight, because according to new research, the key to successful weight loss lies in the hands of the “love hormone” (AKA oxytocin).
Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an essential role in social interaction, trust, anxiety, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and mother-infant bonding. Previous discussions about the hormone have only focused on its role during childbirth, with little investigated on how this hormone weakness the brain’s reward signals for food, and affects our eating behaviour and metabolism.
Presented at the ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, LA, a team of researchers explained how oxytocin can help control eating behaviours and possibly treat obesity.
To conduct the study, the researchers recruited 10 young men who were overweight or had obesity, but were otherwise healthy. The participants made two visits to the research lab where they received a single dose of either oxytocin nasal spray, or a placebo. The participants were unaware of which treatment they received.
After one hour, they underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – which measures changes in blood flow in the brain – while looking at images of high-calorie foods, low-calorie foods, and non-food objects.
The results found that compared to the placebo, oxytocin weakened the function connectivity between the VTA and brain areas relating to food motivation when the participants saw pictures of high-calorie foods. In layman’s terms, their desire to eat the high-calorie foods was lessened after their dose of oxytocin.
“This study is exciting because it shows that oxytocin modulates the pathways in the brain specifically during their responses to highly palatable, rewarding foods,” said the study’s lead investigator, Dr Liya Kerem.
Kerem explained that individuals with obesity have “abnormally hyperactivated brain reward areas” when they see high-calorie foods, even when they are full, which is why medications such as oxytocin might be able to treat obesity. So far, there have been no reported side effects of oxytocin.