September 08, 2016
1 min read

Oxytocin beneficial in young children with Prader-Willi syndrome

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Treatment with intranasal oxytocin improves social and food-related behaviors in children with Prader-Willi syndrome younger than 11 years, study data show.

Renske J. Kuppens, MD, of Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues evaluated 25 children aged 6 to 14 years with Prader-Willi syndrome to determine the effects of intranasal oxytocin (dose range, 24-48 IU per day) for 4 weeks compared with placebo on social behavior and hyperphagia. Participants received oxytocin or placebo for 4 weeks and then crossed over to the other treatment for another 4 weeks.

Among the group overall, no effects of oxytocin compared with placebo were found for social behavior, food intake or satiety. However, among younger children, oxytocin treatment had a beneficial effect on social (P = .004) and eating behavior (P = .014); this observation led researchers to divide participants into two groups, those younger than 11 years (n = 17) and those older than 11 years (n = 8).

Questionnaires about social behavior were completed by parents of the younger age group. Parents reported improved anger (P = .001), sadness (P = .005) and conflicts (P = .01) in children during oxytocin treatment compared with placebo. Food-related behaviors also improved in the younger age group during oxytocin treatment (P = .011), whereas food-seeking behavior and satiety remained similar.

“Nowadays, most parents of children with [Prader-Willi syndrome] have made all kind of adjustments in everyday life to limit access to food. ... However, the baseline food-related behavior scores show that these children are still preoccupied with food,” the researchers wrote. “Oxytocin treatment decreased this food-related behavior, which argues that oxytocin has an inhibiting effect on the hyperphagia, despite the lack of effects on food-seeking behavior and satiety.”

In the analyses of the older age group, no beneficial effects of oxytocin were found for social behavior. Compared with placebo, oxytocin negatively influenced happiness (P = .039), anger (P = .042) and sadness (P = .042). Food-related behavior, food-seeking behavior and satiety remained similar during oxytocin treatment. – by Amber Cox

For more information:

Renske J. Kuppens, MD, can be reached at

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.