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!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.

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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Testosterone Supplements in Frail Elderly Men

February 21, 2010 by  
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Welcome to Weekly Health Update

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As we age, we tend to lose both muscle mass and bone density.  These adverse effects of aging often lead to an increased risk of generalized weakness, early fatigue, imbalance and falls, bone fractures, long-term disability, and hospitalization or other forms of chronic institutionalization.  In turn, these complications of frailty in the elderly are significantly associated with an increased risk of death.

While an elixir of eternal youth has not yet been discovered (despite many claims to the contrary over the centuries), some of the causes of aging-related frailty can be treated.  Sex hormone replacement therapy in the elderly has been a major focus of clinical intervention, in both men and women, in an effort to reverse many of the debilitating effects of aging, including declines in muscle mass, bone density, and sexual function.  However, the true risks and benefits of sex hormone replacement therapy have not always been well understood.  Indeed, within the past decade, old assumptions about the safety of hormone replacement therapy have been called into question by high-level prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded clinical research trials, including the recent and disturbing (but not altogether surprising) findings that long-term combination hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women is associated with a significant increase in the risk of both breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Although aging men do not experience an abrupt and total loss of testicular function, unlike the complete loss of ovarian function that occurs in women following menopause, testicular function does dramatically and progressively decline with advancing age.  Significant decreases in the levels of testosterone (and other “androgens”) in the blood often leads to decreased muscle mass and bone density which, in turn, can result in reduced strength and balance, and an increased risk of falls and serious injuries. 

Testosterone replacement therapy has been shown to be effective in improving muscle mass and bone density (and sexual function) in older men with very low testosterone levels (hypogonadism).  However, the role of testosterone replacement therapy in men with borderline-low circulating levels of androgen hormones has been much less clear.   As with sex hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women, there are known side effects associated with male sex hormone replacement therapy.  These include enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH), liver disease (especially with oral testosterone supplements), fluid retention, decreased fertility, breast enlargement and pain (gynecomastia), and a potential increase in the risk of prostate cancer, among others.

A newly published research study, in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, evaluated 274 men who were 65 years of age or older, and who were determined, by validated clinical criteria, to be either “intermediate-frail” or “frail.”  All of these men were also confirmed to have “borderline-low” levels of testosterone in their blood. 

In this randomized, prospective, placebo-controlled, double-blind study (which is the “gold standard” method of performing clinical research), these older men were randomly assigned to receive either transdermal testosterone therapy (50 mg per day) or a placebo gel that appeared identical to the testosterone gel.  These treatments were continued for 6 months.  The researchers then assessed both groups of men in terms of their muscle strength, muscle mass, body fat, overall level of physical function, and self-reported quality-of-life.

At the end of 6 months, the men who had been secretly randomized to the testosterone gel group were found to have experienced significant improvements in both muscle mass and muscle strength, as well as a decrease in total body fat.  Overall physical function in the “intermediate-frail” and “frail” older men also significantly improved.  Finally, and not surprisingly, self-reported physical health and sexual health satisfaction scores were substantially improved among the men who, unknown to them at the time, had received the testosterone gel.

Thus, the findings of this prospective, randomized, controlled clinical research trial certainly suggest a potential role for transdermal testosterone supplementation in frail older men with borderline-low testosterone levels.  At the same time, continued follow-up of the men in this study who elected to continue receiving testosterone supplementation is indicated, as the rather short duration of this study (6 months) is not long enough to identify the long-term benefits and risks of androgen replacement therapy.

If you are an older man who is experiencing significant frailty and disability due to progressive muscle mass and bone density loss, and you have borderline-low or low testosterone levels, then you might wish to discuss the potential benefits of a monitored testosterone supplementation regimen with your physician, or with an Endocrinologist who specialize in male endocrinology (Andrology).


On a related topic, please also see my recent column on the use of Vitamin D to decrease the risk of falls and fractures in the elderly:



In view of the extreme devastation and human misery brought about in Haiti and Chile by the recent earthquakes, Weekly Health Update asks our tens of thousands of caring readers to give generously to established charities that are currently working in that country to assist the injured, the ill, and the homeless there.  There are many such legitimate charities, including the following two:



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, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author

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