Send to

Choose Destination
Physiol Behav. 2017 Jul 1;176:31-39. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.03.007. Epub 2017 Mar 8.

Current findings on the role of oxytocin in the regulation of food intake.

Author information

School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK; Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Otfried-Müller-Str. 26, 72076 Tübingen, Germany. Electronic address:
Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Otfried-Müller-Str. 26, 72076 Tübingen, Germany; German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), 72076 Tübingen, Germany; Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases of the Helmholtz Center Munich at the University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


In the face of the alarming prevalence of obesity and its associated metabolic impairments, it is of high basic and clinical interest to reach a complete understanding of the central nervous pathways that establish metabolic control. In recent years, the hypothalamic neuropeptide oxytocin, which is primarily known for its involvement in psychosocial processes and reproductive behavior, has received increasing attention as a modulator of metabolic function. Oxytocin administration to the brain of normal-weight animals, but also animals with diet-induced or genetically engineered obesity reduces food intake and body weight, and can also increase energy expenditure. Up to now, only a handful of studies in humans have investigated oxytocin's contribution to the regulation of eating behavior. Relying on the intranasal pathway of oxytocin administration, which is a non-invasive strategy to target central nervous oxytocin receptors, these experiments have yielded some promising first results. In normal-weight and obese individuals, intranasal oxytocin acutely limits meal intake and the consumption of palatable snacks. It is still unclear to which extent - or if at all - such metabolic effects of oxytocin in humans are conveyed or modulated by oxytocin's impact on cognitive processes, in particular on psychosocial function. We shortly summarize the current literature on oxytocin's involvement in food intake and metabolic control, ponder potential links to social and cognitive processes, and address future perspectives as well as limitations of oxytocin administration in experimental and clinical contexts.


Brain; Central nervous system; Cognitive processes; Eating behavior; Food intake; Glucose homeostasis; Intranasal administration; Metabolism; Obesity; Oxytocin; Psychosocial function

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center