Oxytocin As a Anti-Obesity Drug? Continued

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post chronicling the quest for knowledge about the central nervous pathways responsible for establishing metabolic control, and for as much information as possible about how the role of one substance in that context can be intentionally expanded upon. A 2017 study included this elegant sentence:

In recent years, the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin, which is primarily known for its involvement in psychosocial processes and reproductive behavior, has received increasing attention as a modulator of metabolic function.

Researchers had learned that a squirt of oxytocin up the nose “acutely limits meal intake and the consumption of palatable snacks,” which sounds rather magical. Here is another lovely phrase for what the substance does: It causes “the early termination of food intake.” It steps in and says, “Hey, check yourself before you wreck yourself,” and the person stops eating at a reasonable point.

The authors of a University of Minnesota paper remarked that clinical studies are still in their infancy, and opined,

Future implementation of oxytocin-based pharmacological strategies in controlling energy balance will likely depend on our ability to integrate diverse behavioral and metabolic effects of oxytocin in obesity treatment regimens.

Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that chronic administration of oxytocin “leads to sustained weight reduction by reducing food intake, increasing energy expenditure and inducing lipolysis” — in rodents and nonhuman primates, anyway. The report it published covered important data that shows a similar effect in humans.

“The complexity of obesity aetiology” is an elegant phrase for multifactorialism. It is used in a report that describes how oxytocin improves glucose uptake and lipid utilization, and how the substance has a multi-pronged effect on peripheral insulin sensitivity, pancreatic function, and more.

Earlier this year, news was published of the 10-men, double-blind study where oxytocin weakened “the effective coordination between neural systems in response to a task.” In other words, the subjects did not get as excited about pictures of high-calorie food.

A distinctive feature of oxytocin is that it is not distinctive. The participants cannot tell if they receive it or a placebo. The most usual route of administration is intranasal, which is minimally invasive. This alone establishes a welcoming tone for future examinations of what oxytocin can do.

Plus, as far as anybody knows, there are no side effects. This would seem to make it a substance ripe for development — read “exploitation” — but in this world, we can’t have one without the other.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Current findings on the role of oxytocin in the regulation of food intake,” NIH.gov, 03/08/17
Source: “The effects of oxytocin on eating behaviour and metabolism in humans,” NIH.gov, 09/29/17
Source: “Oxytocin in metabolic homeostasis: implications for obesity and diabetes,” management,” NIH.gov, 09/25/18
Source: “Investigational obesity drug, oxytocin, weakens brain’s reward signals for food,” Endocrine.org, 03/24/19
Photo credit: badjonni on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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