Oxytocin, feeding, and satiety

Nancy Sabatier, Gareth Leng, John Menzies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxytocin neurons have a physiological role in food intake and energy balance. Central administration of oxytocin is powerfully anorexigenic, reducing food intake and meal duration. The central mechanisms underlying this effect of oxytocin have become better understood in the past few years. Parvocellular neurons of the paraventricular nucleus project to the caudal brainstem to regulate feeding via autonomic functions including the gastrointestinal vago-vagal reflex. In contrast, magnocellular neurons of the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei release oxytocin from their dendrites to diffuse to distant hypothalamic targets involved in satiety. The ventromedial hypothalamus, for example, expresses a high density of oxytocin receptors but does not contain detectable oxytocin nerve fibers. Magnocellular neurons represent targets for the anorexigenic neuropeptide α-melanocyte stimulating hormone. In addition to homeostatic control, oxytocin may also have a role in reward-related feeding. Evidence suggests that oxytocin can selectively suppress sugar intake and that it may have a role in limiting the intake of palatable food by inhibiting the reward pathway.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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