Oxytocin May Deter Men From Starting Extramarital Affairs


A new study finds that oxytocin may reduce men’s interest in other women outside of their monogamous relationships.




As I noted in a previous column (Oxytocin & Human Kindness), oxytocin is a hormone that appears to have a variety of important functions in humans.  For example, in new mothers, oxytocin stimulates milk secretion from the breast in response to suckling.  Oxytocin is also sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” as it is believed to contribute to those enchanting feelings of attraction, contentment, happiness, and bonding that occur in new romantic relationships. Oxytocin has also been linked to feelings of empathy and sensitivity towards others, while low levels of oxytocin in the brain have been associated with narcissistic, manipulative, and even sociopathic behavior.

Recent revelations of marital infidelity by retired general David Petraeus, the former Director of the CIA, have focused attention on the perennial topic of married men and their predilection towards having affairs with “other” women.  Now, a new prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical research study asks (and potentially answers) the question, “Can oxytocin help to sustain monogamous attachment in men?”  This new study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

In this study, male volunteers who were involved in monogamous heterosexual relationships were administered either intranasal oxytocin or a placebo nose spray that contained no oxytocin.  These male volunteers were “blinded” with respect to which nasal spray they received.  Then, two novel experiments were performed.  In the first experiment, these male volunteers were approached by other men, and by “attractive women.”  The male volunteers were observed during these staged encounters.  Intriguingly, the males who had secretly received the oxytocin nasal spray maintained a significantly greater distance from the women when compared to the men who had received the placebo nasal spray.  (There was no difference between the two groups of male volunteers when it came to approaching other males in this study.)  A second part of this novel study placed photographs of attractive women before all of the male volunteers.  Once again, the men who had been secretly administered oxytocin were significantly more reluctant to approach the photos of attractive women when compared to the men who had received the placebo nasal spray.

To summarize the provocative findings of this unusual clinical study, men involved in a monogamous relationship, and who received a placebo nasal spray, approached unfamiliar attractive women as intently as unattached single men did.  On the other hand, men similarly involved in monogamous relationships, and who secretly received an intranasal oxytocin spray, consistently kept a greater distance from unfamiliar attractive women.  The authors of this study conclude that when “…[oxytocin] release is stimulated during a monogamous relationship, it may additionally promote its maintenance by making men avoid signaling romantic interest to other women through close-approach behavior during social encounters. In this way, [oxytocin] may help to promote fidelity within monogamous human relationships.”

Whether or not retired general David Petraeus, or other men who have engaged in affairs outside of their monogamous relationships, might have made different choices had their oxytocin levels been higher is a matter of speculation.  However, the findings of this novel clinical research study, which builds upon prior studies of the bonding and “commitment” effects of oxytocin in both men and women, suggest that boosting oxytocin levels in men may potentially reduce their inclination towards striking up new relationships with women outside of their current monogamous relationships.  It also suggests that men who have engaged in serial infidelities outside of their marriage, and who wish to change this pattern of behavior, might benefit from intranasal oxytocin, although more clinical research should be performed before offering men intranasal oxytocin as a potential treatment for serial infidelity.

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

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Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 2,017,594 pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


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