Diet Doc, an online provider of medical weight loss programs, is offering a new program called the Emotional Eating Diet Plan. It includes inhaled oxytocin as part of the plan.
I spoke to Ryan Shelton, N.D., medical director of Diet Doc, about the plan and why and how Diet Doc is offering oxytocin to dieters in its program. He said that there are 16 or 17 scientific studies that support the use of oxytocin for weight loss. Some used human subjects' diet diaries and emotional surveys to find correlations between emotions like loneliness were correlated with eating more calories, and then saw a change after oxytocin administration.
In the research I scanned, administration of oxytocin reduced the likelihood of eating for pleasure (comfort) without interfering with normal hunger. (See the bottom of this article for a few studies supporting the idea of using oxytocin to help with weight loss.) However, our bodies are complex; note that in the study "Divergent Effects of Oxytocin Treatment of Obese Diabetic Mice," oxytocin seemed to increase insulin resistance, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Shelton told me that Diet Doc did not start out to create a diet plan that included oxytocin. Instead, he said, "The Emotional Eating Diet Plan was devised first, then we started looking at outside agents, natural and herbal or pharmaceutical, to complement the actual diet."
Assessment forms on the Diet Doc website help site visitors and Diet Doc personnel identify what type of overeater they might be. In addition to emotional eaters, the company has plans for sugar cravers and people whose weight loss has gotten stuck. Diet plans typically include consultations with doctors, supplements, prescription drugs, food plans and exercise regimes.
Prescriptions for inhaled oxytocin are provided through compounding pharmacies; these are pharmacies that can produce drugs in forms or doses different from how they are typically prescribed.
Diet Doc doesn't provide statistics about patient results, but it emphasizes that people have to follow their prescribed programs for quite a while. Shelton said, "We're interested in sustainable weight loss. We have no problem helping people shed 15 or 20 pounds -- that's quite easy. We're interested in helping them achieve those goals while implementing long-term strategies of promoting health and wellness -- keeping that weight off. The weight issue is secondary to more important therapeutic goals, insuring a healthier lifestyle, movement and healthy nutritional intake."
Does this mean that someone who succeeds in shedding pounds via the Emotional Eating Diet Plan will have to keep taking oxytocin for the rest of his or her life? Not at all, he said. "The goal is to achieve certain therapeutic parameters. We try as best we can to implement strategies that, when in place, are not dependent on external agents, medications or supplements."
He acknowledged that there's no information on the possible side effects of long-term dosing with oxytocin. The first experimental oxytocin therapies began only about 10 years ago.
There are some very important things to note about the Diet Docs approach:
- Dieters are working under a doctor's personal supervision.
- Oxytocin is sold via a doctor's prescription only.
- Diet plans are customized for individuals.
- Oxytocin is only one part of the diet plan; the Emotional Eating Plan also may include other supplements and/or drugs, as well as, most important, decreased food intake and exercise.
- Diet Docs says that oxytocin isn't appropriate for all dieters.
In short, oxytocin is not a magic weight-loss potion. For people who eat for comfort, to reduce stress or cope with feelings of isolation or loneliness, it may really help.
It's also interesting to note that this is still another case of private companies applying scientific research to product development without going through all the hoops of getting FDA approval or doing clinical trials. Diet Doc's prescribing oxytocin is legal: Physicians are allowed to prescribe FDA-approved drugs for uses other than that for which they've been approved. This is called off-label prescribing. The company is, in effect, conducting its own, private clinical trial.
I haven't tried Diet Doc, nor am I endorsing them. I'm not an affiliate marketer for the company; I write about oxytocin therapies of all kinds on this blog. To find out more about the Diet Doc Emotional Eating Diet Plan, follow the link.
PHOTO: Mayan Brenn
A few studies:
Peripheral oxytocin suppresses food intake and causes weight loss in diet-induced obese rats. Gregory J. Morton , Brendan S. Thatcher , Roger D. Reidelberger , Kayoko Ogimoto , Tami Wolden-Hanson , Denis G. Baskin , Michael W. Schwartz , James E. Blevins. American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism Published 1 January 2012 Vol. 302 no. 1, E134-E144 DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.00296.2011.
Divergent Effects of Oxytocin Treatment of Obese Diabetic Mice on Adiposity and Diabetes. Altirriba Gutierrez, Jorge et al. Published in Endocrinology. 2014, vol. n.a., p. en20141466
Sex Hormone Lessens Snacking. Meredith Knight. Scientific American Mind 25, 11 (2014). Published online: 13 February 2014 | doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0314-11a (subscription access only)
Oxytocin, Feeding, and Satiety. Nancy Sabatier et al. Front Endocrinology (Lausanne). 2013; 4: 35. Published online Mar 20, 2013. Prepublished online Nov 22, 2012. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2013.00035