Food or Sex?
I have been discussing
the varied and fascinating effects of the
probiotic microorganism, Lactobacillus
reuteri, specifically strains
ATCC PTA 6475 and DSM 17938, that
provoke release of the hormone,
oxytocin, from the hypothalamus.
Among the effects experienced by people who
consume our L. reuteri yogurt is a
dramatic reduction in appetite, the so-called
anorexigenic effect, specifically interest
in “hedonic” foods, i.e., indulgent
foods like sweets, soft drinks, and French fries.
In parallel with this, L. reuteri and
the resultant rise in oxytocin also increase libido,
i.e., interest in sex and procreation, as well as
empathy and connectedness with your partner.
So we experience decreased interest in food and increased
interest in our partner and others close to us with our
L. reuteri yogurt.
Some have therefore speculated that oxytocin triggers
an evolutionary pattern that helps ensure continuation
of the species: It makes you more interested in sex in
order to bear children, rather than devoting too much
attention to procuring and consuming food. Once
children enter the world, the maternal instinct and
family connectedness are enhanced by oxytocin. It
makes you more receptive
to the touch of your partner, increases the
pleasure of an embrace or kiss, cultivates deep
connection with offspring. Obviously, there is a
balance that needs to be struck between competing
attentions of food and human relationships. But
oxytocin is clearly a dominant factor that molds
Here is a speculation: Given the dramatic
reduction in prevalence of L. reuteri
in modern people compared to people from just
60 or 70 years ago, and thereby a reduction
in oxytocin, could this explain the dissolution
of the family, the increase in divorce, the
explosion of gun violence, i.e., the reduction
in feelings of belonging, connectedness, and
empathy for other people, that characterize
There may be other factors, other changes in the
human microbiome that are influencing human behavior
and health. But, as with so many things, looking
back at how things used to be is revealing some
astounding insights into what has happened to
humans as a result of modern life. And, as our
L. reuteri yogurt grows in popularity
for its ability to reduce skin wrinkles, increase
muscle, preserve bone density, deepen sleep, etc.
will its social bond-increasing potential make
this a happier, more connected, less vicious world?