It is Valentine’s Day time. The air is filled with love, hands are being held, and grins stretch across faces. You feel happier being surrounded with such love, Valentine’s date or not. If you are one of the lucky ones with a Valentine’s Day date, you can rest easy knowing that you have yet another reason to be grateful for your partner: oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a chemical released by the brain when there is physical contact and affection between partners and between parents and children. This chemical is extremely powerful, and your body reacts to its effects even faster when you commonly share that physical affection with your significant other. What are these effects? The most obvious and the one that you probably notice in yourself is an increase in positive feeling. Other effects that have been found are lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, better mood, and higher pain tolerance [NIH]. These are not the only health reasons to be grateful for your partner, though. Emerging research shows that people with higher oxytocin levels seem to naturally eating fewer calories and fat.
A study tested twenty-five men and how they ate a breakfast meal, one time with a dose of oxytocin and one time without oxytocin. Interestingly, the researchers found a statistically significant difference in the participants eating fewer calories and fat after the oxytocin dose. So what does this mean? Basically, the study has found that when we have higher levels of oxytocin, we naturally eat fewer calories and fat.
While this is one of the first studies on humans and more need to be done to expand the conclusions to women, the study’s findings can get you at least excited about the healthy moves your body may be making subconsciously when with you are with your significant other.
In practical terms, as you are hyped up on oxytocin cuddling and holding hands with your Valentine’s date, pat yourself on the back for knowing you may be self-regulating your calorie and fat intake without even trying. Lastly, give that date of your’s a big smooch to thank him or her for all of that oxytocin you have had and the lover’s diet you may have been on all this time.
Lawson, E. A., Marengi, D. A., DeSanti, R. L., Holmes, T. M., Schoenfeld, D. A. and Tolley, C. J. (2015), Oxytocin reduces caloric intake in men. Obesity, 23: 950–956. doi:10.1002/oby.21069