Oxytocin supplements don’t help solve relationship issues, study finds

Oxytocin-based nasal sprays have been marketed as helping people better control their emotions – but this study proves otherwise.

 THE BOOK explores the meaning of the sexual relationship in Judaism.  (photo credit: PEXELS)
THE BOOK explores the meaning of the sexual relationship in Judaism.
(photo credit: PEXELS)

Ocytocin, a naturally-produced neuropeptide that regulates emotions and behavior, has recently been marketed as a potential solution to save and improve relationships, with Ocytocin-based nasal sprays claiming they can help people better control their emotions.

A new University of Essex study published in the Royal Societies journal disproves said claims, as their research showed the Ocytocin spray had no impact on the over 100 men who participated in the study. 

“We found that in healthy young men, those who completed our computer-based emotion training program were better at recognizing some emotions, but those who had oxytocin showed no benefit,” said study co-author Dr. Katie Daughters of Cardiff University.

Drugs vs Therapy

Researchers recruited 104 healthy men with an average age of 19 to participate in the study. Some were given the Ocytocin spray or a placebo, while others were selected to complete an accredited emotional training program or a “placebo” mock training program.

 The brain (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY) The brain (illustrative). (credit: PIXABAY)

Participants were rapidly shown images of people expressing emotions on their faces and were asked to determine the emotion expressed by the facial expression. While participants of the training program were more adept at identifying sad and angry faces, oxytocin had no effect whatsoever.

“Our study serves as an important reminder that oxytocin may not always be the most effective tool when trying to improve the social lives and mental health of others," Daughters declared. 

Daughters added that more research regarding oxytocin's effect on women and on those who suffer from psychological disorders is needed, emphasizing that they hope the Ocytocin hormone will be able to help those who suffer from disorders that affect emotional recognition, such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia and post-natal depression.

“There are lots of studies examining whether oxytocin can increase a particular desired outcome, but relatively few studies have actually compared whether oxytocin is better than something else which is also designed to increase the same outcome,” said Daughters.