As we get older, it’s important that we do what we can to keep our bones strong and healthy. Not to mention, bone loss is more common in aging women than it is in men because we tend to lose bone mass as estrogen declines during our perimenopausal and menopausal years. However, there are a few key ways we can avoid issues like osteoporosis, arthritis, and general aches and pains. More recently, scientists may have stumbled upon one of the most heartwarming strategies yet.
In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from São Paulo State University in Brazil set out to discover if oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone, could help prevent or treat osteoporosis in females. Due to the aging population in Brazil, it’s been estimated that somewhere around 100,000 hip fractures occur there annually. Since oxytocin is associated with bone density (and also tends to decline in females during menopause), the scientists wanted to see if treatment with the hormone could reverse or treat bone loss.
To conduct their study, the researchers used rats aged 18 months old, which is equivalent to the age of perimenopause in human females. The team divided the rats into groups, treating one group with oxytocin, while the other did not receive the hormone.
After one month, the researchers analyzed blood and tissue from the rats that received the treatment and compared them to the rats that didn’t get the oxytocin. Results showed that those who got the oxytocin had no loss of bone density over that month. Even further, the treated rats showed biochemical markers of bone renewal in their blood.
Their bones also showed to be more sturdy. The femoral neck area (which is in the hip, where most fractures tend to occur) was stronger and less porous, and they showed signs of higher bone density. “The animals that received the hormone displayed an increase in biochemical markers associated with bone renewal and in the expression of proteins that support bone formation and mineralization,” said Menegati Dornelles, lead author of the study, in a press release.
This research points to some important information, especially for women who are three to four times more likely to fracture a hip. In the years after a fracture, our independence and mobility suffer — and it also increases our mortality risk.
How to Boost Oxytocin
So what can you do about it? Luckily, there are so many ways that you can increase your levels of oxytocin naturally. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone” because it gets released when we experience feelings of bonding. The most common hormone-triggering bond is that between parent and infant, but you can also turn the love on when cuddling with a partner, or even hugging a friend or family member!
Some other proven ways to boost oxytocin include listening to (or creating your own!) music, activities like yoga and meditation, petting or playing with your pets, having sex, and giving or receiving a massage. Can you think of a better way to protect your health? We sure can’t.