Oxytocin response to food intake in avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

Anna Aulinas, Maged Muhammed, Kendra R. Becker, Elisa Asanza, Kristine Hauser, Casey Stern, Julia Gydus, Tara Holmes, Helen Burton Murray, Lauren Breithaupt, Nadia Micali, Madhusmita Misra, Kamryn T. Eddy, Jennifer J. Thomas, Elizabeth A. Lawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the response of anorexigenic oxytocin to food intake among adolescents and young adults with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), a restrictive eating disorder characterized by lack of interest in food or eating, sensory sensitivity to food, and/or fear of aversive consequences of eating, compared with healthy controls (HC). Design: Cross-sectional. Methods: A total of 109 participants (54 with ARFID spectrum and 55 HC) were instructed to eat a ∼400-kcal standardized mixed meal. We sampled serum oxytocin at fasting and at 30-, 60-, and 120-min postmeal. We tested the hypothesis that ARFID would show higher mean oxytocin levels across time points compared with HC using a mixed model ANOVA. We then used multivariate regression analysis to identify the impact of clinical characteristics (sex, age, and body mass index [BMI] percentile) on oxytocin levels in individuals with ARFID. Results: Participants with ARFID exhibited greater mean oxytocin levels at all time points compared with HC, and these differences remained significant even after controlling for sex and BMI percentile (P = .004). Clinical variables (sex, age, and BMI percentile) did not show any impact on fasting and postprandial oxytocin levels among individuals with ARFID. Conclusions: Consistently high oxytocin levels might be involved in low appetite and sensory aversions to food, contributing to food avoidance in individuals with ARFID.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-155
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
  • feeding and eating disorders
  • food control
  • hypothalamus
  • oxytocin


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