There's nothing like cuddling up for a hug with your sweetie after a long day at work. Now research suggests that loving feeling is good for more than just a Saturday-night snugglefest.
A new study from the University of California, Berkeley says that oxytocin—known as the "love hormone" and which is responsible for those warm fuzzies you feel when bonding with a lover or loved one, or looking at a cute photo of a baby or puppy—may have anti-aging and restorative properties.
Our levels of oxytocin drop as we age, so the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, looked at younger mice as well as older mice who had muscle damage and deterioration. The researchers then injected the older mice with oxytocin and compared their muscle healing with the younger mice. Initially the older mice had lower levels of the hormone than the younger mice, but after nine days, the researchers found that the older mice who were given the oxytocin healed faster than the younger mice. In fact, their ability to heal was up to 80 percent faster than the younger mice.
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While oxytocin kicks into high gear during and immediately after childbirth, and is present in both men and women, it's not known how much is needed to stay healthy. That the results of this study were fast-acting leave the researchers hopeful that oxytocin could be the key to anti-aging remedies in the future.
In fact, the authors also noted that a growing circle of medical professionals believe aging to be the underlying cause of a number of chronic diseases, including Parkinson's and type 2 diabetes, so if they're able to specifically target those aging processes with oxytocin, it's possible that one day it could be used to slow down the rate at which we age and thus delay the onset of those diseases.
Obviously, the study was done on mice, not humans, so the results can't necessarily be generalized to humans, but if nothing else, it serves as a good excuse to go out and give someone a hug.