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Current Neuropharmacology


ISSN (Print): 1570-159X
ISSN (Online): 1875-6190

Review Article

Oxytocin and Eating Disorders: A Narrative Review on Emerging Findings and Perspectives

Author(s): Katrin Giel, Stephan Zipfel and Manfred Hallschmid*

Volume 16, Issue 8, 2018

Page: [1111 - 1121] Pages: 11

DOI: 10.2174/1570159X15666171128143158

Price: $65


Background: The hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin regulates reproductive behavior and mother-infant interaction, and conclusive studies in humans indicate that oxytocin is also a potent modulator of psychosocial function. Pilot experiments have yielded first evidence that this neuropeptide moreover influences eating behavior.

Methods: We briefly summarize currently available studies on the involvement of the oxytocin system in the pathophysiology of eating disorders, as well as on the effects of oxytocin administration in patients with these disorders.

Results: Brain administration of oxytocin in animals with normal weight, but also with diet-induced or genetically induced obesity, attenuates food intake and reduces body weight. In normal-weight and obese individuals, acute intranasal oxytocin delivery curbs calorie intake from main dishes and snacks. Such effects might converge with the poignant social and cognitive impact of oxytocin to also improve dysfunctional eating behavior in the therapeutic context. This assumption has received support in first studies showing that oxytocin might play a role in the disease process of anorexia nervosa. In contrast, respective experiments in patients with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are still scarce.

Conclusions: We propose a framework of oxytocin’s role and its therapeutic potential in eating disorders that aims at integrating social and metabolic aspects of its pharmacological profile, and ponder perspectives and limitations of oxytocin use in the clinical setting.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, eating behavior, eating disorders, oxytocin, therapeutic options.

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