Oxytocin is the love hormone that many of us experience when we hug a loved one or engage in sexual interaction. Oxytocin is also often released in mothers when they breastfeed their children, and is known to increase sexual libido and intensify the bonds between family and partners. According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, oxytocin may contain properties that can be used to maintain and repair aging muscles in the human body.
The loss of muscle tissue that occurs as part of the natural aging process is commonly referred to as sarcopenia. Although the breaking down of muscle tissue is a process that cannot be prevented completely, the process can be slowed down by making healthy lifestyle choices — such as eating a highly nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and managing or eliminating stress. Those who abuse their bodies by eating a high-fat diet, failing to be physically active, and enduring long-term stress are at higher risk for experiencing sarcopenia than their counterparts.
For the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers examined the levels of oxytocin in a group of test mice. As the mice aged, their oxytocin levels tended to decline as well. Additionally, older mice were found to have fewer oxytocin receptors in the stem cells of their muscles — further supporting the theory that low oxytocin levels can lead to sarcopenia.
To test their theory, the Berkeley researchers injected all test mice with the oxytocin hormone. The injured muscles in the older mice then began to repair themselves significantly within nine days of receiving the oxytocin injections. Compared to the younger mice, the older mice experienced 80 percent faster muscle repair as a result of the boost in oxytocin. Lead study author Wendy Cousin says that although the younger mice failed to experience muscle repair as significantly as did the older mice, the experiment demonstrates that extra oxytocin has the ability to boost aged stem cells without having adverse effects of the division rate of said cells.
Cousin also says that oxytocin could eventually overtake conventional hormone replacement therapy in regards to anti-aging, especially since traditional hormone replacement therapy has been associated with a number of adverse health risks and has been proven ineffective at regenerating muscle tissue.
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