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Clinical Research

Variable oxytocin levels in humans with different degrees of obesity and impact of gastric bypass surgery



Exogenous oxytocin administration in obese mice, rats, and monkeys was shown to induce sustained weight loss, mostly due to a decrease in fat mass, accompanied by an improvement of glucose metabolism. A pilot study in obese humans confirmed the weight-reducing effect of oxytocin. Knowledge about circulating oxytocin levels in human obesity might help indicating which obese subjects could potentially benefit from an oxytocin treatment. Conclusive results on this topic are missing. The aim of this study was to measure circulating oxytocin levels in lean (n = 37) and obese (n = 72) individuals across a wide range of body mass index (BMI) values (18.5–60 kg/m2) and to determine the impact of pronounced body weight loss following gastric bypass surgery in 12 morbidly obese patients. We observed that oxytocin levels were unchanged in overweight and in class I and II obese subjects and only morbidly obese patients (obesity class III, BMI > 40 kg/m2) exhibited significantly higher levels than lean individuals, with no modification 1 year after gastric bypass surgery, despite substantial body weight loss. In conclusion, morbidly obese subjects present elevated oxytocin levels which were unaltered following pronounced weight loss.

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We thank F Bontems for technical support, MO Boldi for statistical help, the “Bus Santé” collaborators and participants, the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant 310030_160290/1), and the HUG and the General Directorate of Health (Geneva Canton, Switzerland).


This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant 310030 160290/1). The “Bus Santé” study is funded by the University Hospitals of Geneva and the General Directorate of Health, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland.

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Correspondence to Jordi Altirriba.

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FRJ has a patent application (PCT/IB2011/052156) covering therapeutic uses of oxytocin. The other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Pataky, Z., Guessous, I., Caillon, A. et al. Variable oxytocin levels in humans with different degrees of obesity and impact of gastric bypass surgery. Int J Obes 43, 1120–1124 (2019).

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