‘Love hormone’ oxytocin can reverse aging processes that lead to osteoporosis

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become less dense and can break easily as we age. A new study finds the answer to avoiding brittle bones may be more love. Researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil suggest that oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” known for its role in affection and bonding, can reverse age-related changes that lead to people developing osteoporosis.

Throughout our lives, our bones are constantly remodeling. When we’re younger, the body is able to maintain a healthy balance between removing old bone and forming new ones. As we get older however, our bodies become less efficient at maintaining this balance. This is what can lead to losses in bone mass and density eventually bringing on this condition.

Osteoporosis a greater danger for women

The new study focuses on the prevention of osteoporosis. More specifically, they investigate the physiological changes that occur during the premenopausal period in women. Study authors say women are more prone to osteoporosis; adding that taking action during the premenopausal period can help prevent bones from becoming brittle and fracturing.

The study in Scientific Reports administered two doses of oxytocin 12 hours apart to 18-month-old female rats. Researchers explain that this is actually an old age for rats. They administered the hormone during the rat’s “peri-estropause” period, which is considered equivalent to perimenopause in humans.

The study then follows femur blood samples for 35 days after taking oxytocin. The Brazilian team finds rats receiving oxytocin have denser bones and higher activity of bone formation markers, including alkaline phosphatase.

“Our results demonstrated that oxytocin helps to modulate the bone remodeling cycle in senescent rats,” lead author Rita Menegati Dornelles explains in a media release. “The animals that received the hormone displayed an increase in biochemical markers associated with bone renewal and in the expression of proteins that support bone formation and mineralization.”

Brittle bones can have devastating effects

In the future, the research team plans to look at the effect of oxytocin on bone density and osteoporosis in humans. The good thing researchers say about this hormone is that it is produced naturally in the body and can also be synthesized in labs.

“The consequences of these fractures are very drastic, including loss of mobility and comorbidities,” Dornelles warns, regarding injuries caused by osteoporosis. “Loss of function and independence is profound among survivors. Approximately 40% become unable to walk independently, and about two-thirds of these need help a year later. Less than half recover their previous level of function.”

The study adds nearly a quarter of hip fracture patients die within 12 month of their injury.

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