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June 2005
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August 2005

From Russia About Love

A goofy article from Pravda -- so it must be true! -- outlines all the way sex is good for you. Especially if you're a woman.

According to Sex makes people healthy, cheerful, strong, beautiful and sleepy, not only does orgasm release oxytocin, it increases estrogen production. Moreover,

It may seem unreal, but it a fact: regular sex enlarges women's breasts. Sexual excitement intensifies the bloodstream, which may add 25 percent to a woman's breast size. Furthermore, women can raise their IQ with every orgasm that they experience. American scientists, who continuingly study sexual possibilities of homo sapiens, discovered that the moment of orgasm gives a very powerful incentive to a large number of chemical reactions and physical procedures in the body. The speed of blood circulation reaches its maximum, whereas the oxygen-enriched blood reaches all internal organs, including brain, very quickly. Hypothalamus - the center for control of the hormonal system - also governs the work of learning and memorizing centers.


Oxytocin and Eating

I was excited to find a clue to oxytocin's influence on eating -- and overeating. I felt intuitively that there's a connection, because food and love seem so connected.

Linda Rinaman  at the University of Pennsylvania presented  "Oxytocin and Ingestibe Behavior"  at that Neurohypophyseal Hormones Conference going on right now.  Building on research that showed oxytocin reduces rats' desire to eat when they're dehydrated,

Rinaman said she and her colleagues are interested in determining "the special role that [oxytocin] may have to control food intake under certain situations, but not in others. We think that oxytocin might normally act in the brain to inhibit intake only in certain types of feeding or drinking situations. If we can pinpoint the types of situations, we'll learn more about how [oxytocin] and other peptides may function under unique environmental conditions."

And who knew there was a Society for Ingestive Behavior ?


Friends are good for your health

David Kohn of the Baltimore Sun reports on research led by  Lynn Giles,  a professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Giles found that found that people who had more friends and who spent more time with them tended to live longer.

The most interactive group, people who had five or more close friends and talked with them regularly, were 22 percent less likely to die than those who were least connected - no close friends and few social contacts of any kind, Kohn wrote.

Experts quoted in the article pondered whether the health benefits were due to getting off one's butt to see friends, whether friends encourage us to try harder, or whether those with more friends had healthier lifestyles in general.

A UCLA sociologist said,

"There's growing evidence to show that social experience can affect your biology."

I thought almost everyone accepted this by now.  Kohn goes on to say,

Some scientists suspect that social connection may trigger release of the neuro-hormone oxytocin, which can reduce blood pressure and anxiety.

Candace Pert, the neuroscientist who discovered the opioid receptors in the body, has a wonderful explanation of how oxytocin and other neuropeptides create health and homeostasis in our bodies. In her book, Molecules of Emotion, she talks about ligands, which are the neuropeptides like oxytocin that bind with receptors in the brain- and all over the body. She writes,

...These receptors and ligands have come to be seen as "information molecules" -- the basic units of a language used by cells throughout the organism to communicate across systems such as the endocrine, neurological, gastrointestinal, and even the immune system. Overall, the musical hum of the receptors as they bind to their many ligands ... creates an integration of structure and function that allows the organism to run smooth, intelligently.

In other words, oxytocin and other neurochemicals play roles all over the body, not just in the brain. So they're important for our allover health, as well as emotional health.

The study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Conference on Oxytocin

Next week is a conference on "The Neurohypophyseal Hormones." These are the hormones secreted by the neurohypophysis, otherwise known as the rear lobe of the pituitary gland.

Larry Young, of Emory University's Center fir Behavioral Neuroscience, studies the role of oxytocin and vasopressin in monogamy. He'll give a keynote presentation on their roles in social and emotional behavior including parenting, promiscuity and romance. He also will discuss their possible role in autism.

I'm seeing more and more such references to the potential for treating autism with oxytocin. I think researchers are reluctant to put this out to the public, because it's still rather speculative. But the idea makes sense: Because such neurochemicals are involved in at least two ways: First, they activate the portions of the brain involved in attachment and social interaction. Second, they produce the body reactions we experience as emotions of love, trust and connectedness.

This is another conference I wish I could attend. I'll try to contact Young in the next few weeks and see if he'll share his ideas.