John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Food may be the way to our hearts

What's the link between love and food?Photo / Thinkstock
What's the link between love and food?Photo / Thinkstock

How about a date? If you want to know what's likely to set the sparks flying, a local scientist's groundbreaking research may be worth following.

New research into the "love hormone" will investigate links between forming bonds and sharing food. The hormone oxytocin was key to many functions basic for survival, including lactation, giving birth, appetite control and bond formation. It also increased trust, co-operation, and willingness to help others.

University of Waikato researcher Dr Pawel Olszewski said many mammals were willing to share food, even though it could be detrimental. Food-sharing was long thought to be a purely cultural phenomenon but Olszewski believed biology and neurobiology were behind it too.

Olszewski plans to use some of a $760,000 Marsden Fund grant to test an oxytocin Nasal spray on humans, rats and mice. "We want to test this hypothesis in humans but we also want to see if it extends to other species."

Olszewski said oxytocin generally boosted various kinds of bonds. "This is increasing the bond between the mother and child, and increasing the bond between unrelated individuals that will start mating."

Near the restaurants at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, Mira Bonacker, 30 and boyfriend Ludwig Zeller, 31, were keen to better understand links between oxytocin, food-sharing and bond formation. Bonacker said she initially hated dates at restaurants but now thought otherwise. "You have much more time. It's more intense. If you're watching a game like soccer there are other people around."

"Our first date was just drinking," Zeller admitted.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 29 Jul 2014 15:00:56 Processing Time: 201ms