Oxytocin, which is popularly known as the love hormone, plays many roles. This key hormone encourages labor during childbirth and triggers milk production. It doesn’t just control social interactions, reproduction, mother-child bonding, and birth. It also controls anxiety and the body’s relationship with food.
Oxytocin has the ability to change the way our brain views food by weakening its reward signals. It also impacts our eating behavior as well as metabolism. Now a new study which was presented by researchers at ENDO 2019 in New Orleans, LA shows how oxytocin can affect the way obese individuals process the pictures of high-calories foods.
What Does This New Research Say?
Obesity is a growing problem in the United States. The medical industry is always looking for solutions for the problem. Previously, research has shown that the hormone oxytocin, commonly referred to as the love hormone, can be of help in decreasing the activation of the ventral tegmental area of the brain which is linked to the brain’s reward system.
By doing so, it can be of help in reducing obesity. However, this treatment hasn’t been approved yet. A new study which has been funded by the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard, the National institutes of Health, and the Boston Nutrition Obesity Research Center analyzed the effects that oxytocin has on the connection between region of the brain that controls one’s behavior of eating, and the rest of the brain.
For the purpose of the study, 10 young men were taken as participants. These men were either obese or overweight but didn’t have any other health problems. These men visited the research lab twice for either receiving placebo or oxytocin nasal spray. They were not told which of the two they were being given.
After an hour of the treatment, they were asked to look at the pictures of high-calorie food items, low-calorie foods as well as non-food objects. At the same time, they were also made to go through functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI. This technique is used for the measurement of blood flow in the brain.
It was found that oxytocin weakened the connection between the VTA, which is the part of the brain that controls eating behavior, and other parts of the brain that were related to food motivation when participants viewed images of high-calorie foods. Moreover, there were no reported adverse side effects of the treatment. This shows that oxytocin can regulate pathways in the brain with regards to rewarding foods. Hence, this hormone can be helpful in decreasing obesity.
A new research builds upon past researches which show that oxytocin, aka the love hormone, can be of assistance in being a possible treatment of obesity. This latest study shows that oxytocin can modulate pathways of the brain when it comes to their response to rewarding (high-calorie) foods. Now that the role of oxytocin in controlling obesity is being solidified, will its use as a treatment drug be approved? Time will tell.