"Love hormone" may help fight anorexia
Several small-scale studies performed by scientists from the UK and Korea found that patients were less likely to have issues with food and body image after being administered a dose of oxytocin, the hormone released naturally during any form of bonding, including sex, childbirth and breastfeeding.
In the first of the most recent studies, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, 31 patients with anorexia and 33 people who did not have the condition were given either a dose of oxytocin, delivered via nasal spray, or a placebo treatment. The study participants then looked at a series of images showing a range of high and low calorie foods and people of different body shapes and weight. After taking oxytocin, according to the researchers, patients with anorexia were less likely to focus on the "negative" images of food and fat body parts.
Another study involving the same group of people looked at their reactions to facial expressions depicting anger, disgust or happiness, since it has been suggested that anorexia can be linked to a heightened perception of threat, and that oxytocin could inhibit that perception. The results showed that patients with anorexia were less likely to focus on the “disgust” faces after the oxytocin treatment and they were less likely to avoid looking at the angry faces.
Currently, there are no pharmacological treatments for anorexia.