Today we’re going to talk about a little known and hardly talked hormone, at least in the world of health and fitness: oxytocin.
We’re all heard about the growth hormone or insulin as anabolic hormones.
What is oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone produced in cells of the hypothalamus (parvocellular and magnocellular neurons) and classically (this is how I learned it in medical school) it is related to two physiological processes essential for humans:
- Inducing labour
- Breastfeeding (along with prolactin)
What metabolic effects does oxytocin have?
Along with the childbirth and breastfeeding functions mentioned, Oxytocin seems to behave as a sensor of nutritional status in both sexes (male and female).
OXT appears to have an anorectic effect, leading to lower energy intake by acting on multiple homeostatic and neurobehavioral pathways.
Have you ever heard about losing your appetite when falling in love?
How does it happen?
The oxytocin is released in response to labour and babies breastfeeding.
What’s interesting is that the studies we have available show weight loss as a result of fat mass loss, not lean mass.
Subjects increase their energy expenditure and decrease their intake when exposed to high levels of oxytocin.
Is this the new GH?
Probably not, because its secretion pattern is much more specific, but if it could be isolated and safely administered to patients with obesity, would we be looking at a new anti-obesity drug?
Better oxidation of fat
What every bodybuilder wants…
It’s also of interest to people with chronic conditions, since many of them incur sarcopenia over time.
And let’s not forget the bone, first cousin of the muscle and whose health is at least as important as the muscle.
Decreased rate of gastric emptying, encouraging a feeling of fullness
It’s the same mechanism as, for example, other hormones used in obesity, such as the so-called GLP-1 analogues, an incretin widely used in anti-diabetic and anti-obesity therapy.
Increased insulin secretion at the same glycemic load
That is, it helps the pancreas secrete insulin when needed, reducing hyperglycaemia potentially.
Nowadays to speak about the microbiome is to speak about metabolism.
The microbiota and the metabolites they produce have been shown to act by hundreds of different pathways in metabolism.
It seems that oxytocin also influences the microbiota.
Less calorie ingestion
You know, “lover’s anorexia”.
Oxytocin is involved in processes as intangible and human as empathy, love and affection.
That’s why it’s called the “love hormone”.
Will it be possible in the future to administer it to treat conditions?
This is precisely what they’re testing:
- Both in people with exogenous obesity (most frequently);
- And in patients with hypothalamic obesity (existing in some syndromes such as Prader-Willi).
Several clinical trials are underway, with the administration method being one of the challenges we are trying to address.
Is there a way to produce it endogenously?
Yes, there are several ways, some more practical than others, to increase oxytocin secretion:
If you’re a woman:
- Giving birth.
- Having a baby at the breast.
But for both sexes, there’s also:
- Sexual stimulation.
Popularly, being in love has been associated with a state of ecstasy and physiological well-being.
This is due to the secretion of a series of neuropeptides such as endorphins during that beautiful period of our lives.
But oddly enough, another point made about courting and falling in love is the loss of appetite.
Physiology never ceses to surprise us, and this article shows that oxytocin has systemic effects that go far beyond producing contractions at birth or producing milk.
In the meantime, you can always fall in love. A big hug and keep on empowering yourself.
- McCormack SE, Blevins JE, Lawson EA. Metabolic Effects of Oxytocin. Endocr Rev. 2020 Apr 1;41(2).
- Diet when Lactating.
- Learn how to Compete in Fitness after becoming a mother… click here.