Anorexia is a disorder that many women face and is manifested by lack of appetite (loss of appetite) found in many febrile, digestive or chronic diseases. A certain form, anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder on a mental background and is manifested by repulsion towards food, accompanied by total loss of appetite. It mainly affects teenagers with real or imaginary weight problems, who want to have a figure similar to that of well-known models.
Recently, British and Korean researchers found in two different studies that oxytocin, also known as the happiness hormone, could be used to treat anorexia. This hormone has been recommended in recent years as a treatment for a number of psychiatric disorders, believed to reduce the social anxiety of people with autism.
Recently, it was found that patients showed less attachment to food and their own body image after receiving a dose of oxytocin.
The first study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology and involved 31 patients with anorexia and 33 healthy people who received either a dose of oxytocin from a nasal spray or a placebo. Afterwards, the participants looked at a series of photos showing hypercaloric and low-calorie foods, as well as people with different weights and body shapes.
It was found that people with anorexia focused more on photos of overweight people and, in general, on those body shapes that they considered undesirable. After taking oxytocin, these patients showed a change in behavior, developing a lower likelihood of focusing on photographs of overweight food and people.
The second study, published in the journal Plos One, involved the same people, but the researchers looked at their reaction to facial expressions that suggested anger, disgust or happiness. The reason is that previous studies have shown that anorexia may be associated with an increased perception of the sensation of threat, and several animal studies have shown that oxytocin treatments reduce attention to threatening facial expressions.
In the new study, patients developed less likely to focus on their faces after oxytocin treatment, but also a lower tendency to avoid looking at angry faces.
The two studies (British and Korean) were coordinated by eating disorder expert Janet Treasure of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. Although research is in its infancy, with a small number of participants, the potential of this oxytocin treatment is considered huge. The reason: oxytocin reduces patients' unconscious tendencies to focus on food, body shape, and negative emotions, such as disgust.