Nose spray filled with love hormone oxytocin 'may help fight obesity'

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A nose spray containing the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin could help us lose weight, a study shows.

Tests show one squirt in each nostril is enough to stop us from thinking about food.

Scientists think the spray could help tackle Britain’s obesity crisis – more than one in four adults in England are obese and a third are overweight.

Oxytocin is called the love hormone because it is released by the brain during social scenarios including hugging, holding hands or kissing.

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It is also released by pregnant women to induce labour. 

But in recent years, several studies have found that squirting a man-made version of oxytocin into the nose can potentially treat everything from flagging libido to tinnitus to behavioural problems caused by autism in children.

The latest research, by scientists from Imperial College London and Kingston University London now suggests the hormone can also curb the appetite.

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Forty volunteers, men and women, sprayed oxytocin into both nostrils before being shown images of food, couples being romantic, or scenery. 

Researchers measured their reactions to the photographs after using the oxytocin spray and again after using a placebo spray.

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The results, which were published in the journal Appetite, showed that responses to food images were much slower after the hormone spray but hardly changed with the placebo spray.

Researchers said this suggests our brains are much less preoccupied with the need for calories when taking oxytocin.

Animal studies have found that daily oxytocin use triggers significant weight loss.

The hormone is thought to dampen activity in part of the brain’s reward system – called the ventral tegmental area. Researchers think the nasal spray could be a future weight loss aid.

The scientists said in a report: ‘These findings may have important implications for people with obesity.’

However, oxytocin is not without its risks. Possible side-effects of the hormone include nausea, low blood pressure and even abnormal heart rhythms.

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