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Though oxytocin is most commonly known for its role in uterine contraction during delivery, recent evidence demonstrates that it also has an anorexigenic effect.  Elizabeth Lawson and colleagues investigated the endogenous oxytocin response to food intake and its relationship to sensations of hunger and satiety in 55 normal weight, pre-menopausal females.  Oxytocin levels were higher in younger women and were lower in the early-mid follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.  Oxytocin levels decreased significantly during the first hour following a standardized meal, with a mean 20% reduction in levels compared to baseline.  Fasting levels of oxytocin were not associated with ratings of hunger.  Following the standardized meal, however, ratings of satiety were significantly inversely associated with the decrease in oxytocin, such that those with greater relative post-prandial reductions in oxytocin had lower satiety ratings.  This relationship was independent of age, menopausal status, or the amount of food consumed during the meal.  These data suggest that changes in endogenous peripheral oxytocin levels influence post-prandial feelings of satiety.


Aulinas A, Pulumo RL, Elisa A, Mancuso C CJ, Meghan S, Tolley C, Plessow F, Thomas JJ, Eddy KT, Miller KK, Klibanski A, Misra M, Lawson EA. Endogenous oxytocin levels in relation to food intake, menstrual phase, and age in females. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Nov 16. doi: 10.1210/jc.2018-02036. [Epub ahead of print]


Research Details:

  • Research Center:  Harvard Medical School
  • Featured NORC Members:  Kamryn Eddy, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Karen Miller, MD, Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital; Anne Klibanski, MD, Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital; Madhusmita Misra, MD, MPH, Professor of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Elizabeth Lawson, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • Center Contributions:  Dr. Elizabeth Lawson is the Co-director of Education and Program Enrichment and a member of the Executive Committee.


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