Intranasal Oxytocin and Food Intake in Obese Adolescents


The purpose of the study is to determine the effect of intranasal OXT caloric intake and eating behaviors in otherwise healthy obese adolescents.

The primary objective of this study is to determine the effects of intranasal administration of oxytocin on food intake in obese, pubertal or post-pubertal adolescents (13 to <18 years in girls, and 15 to <20 years in boys).

Full Title of Study: “Effect of a Single Dose of Intranasal Oxytocin on Food Intake in Obese Adolescents”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Crossover Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: June 2020

Detailed Description

Participants will undergo a telephone screening and then, within 4 weeks, complete an in-person screening visit to determine eligibility. Then, within 4 weeks they will be randomized to either OXT or placebo. After a minimum 1-week (7-28 days) "washout," participants will cross-over to treatment with the other condition (i.e., placebo or OXT).


  • Drug: Syntocinon
    • The active substance of Syntocinon is a synthetic nonapeptide identical to the posterior pituitary hormone oxytocin.
  • Drug: Placebo
    • The placebo is identical to the Syntocinon formulation with the exception of the active compound, i.e., without oxytocin.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Syntocinon (=Oxytocin), then Placebo
    • Single-Dose Intranasal Oxytocin Single-Dose Placebo
  • Experimental: Placebo, then Syntocinon (=Oxytocin)
    • Single-Dose Placebo Single-Dose Intranasal Oxytocin

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Effect on Food Intake
    • Time Frame: 28 Days
    • Kilocalories Consumed at as desired (‘Ad Lib’) Test Meal

Secondary Measures

  • Adverse Events
    • Time Frame: 28 Days
    • Number of participants with adverse events.
  • Effect of OXT on Eating Behaviors at Mealtime (appetite)
    • Time Frame: 28 Days
    • Investigators will assess appetite, a visual analog scale (VAS) to quantify participants’ self-reported appetite on a linear scale will be used. The range of the VAS is 0% to 100% of the scale, with 0% corresponding to no self-reported appetite, and 100% corresponding to maximal self-reported appetite.
  • Effect of OXT on Eating Behaviors at Mealtime (impulsivity)
    • Time Frame: 28 Days
    • Investigators will measure impulsivity, which may affect the decision to eat, performance on a computerized stop-signal task will be assessed. Outcome measures include: direction errors (#, more = more errors), proportion of successful stops (%, higher = more successful), reaction time on “Go” trials (longer = slower), stop signal reaction time (longer= slower).

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

1. Proficient in English.

2. Pubertal or Post-Pubertal Females: 13 to <18 years.

3. Pubertal or Post-Pubertal Males: 15 to <20 years.

4. Girls must have a negative urine pregnancy test and post-menarchal girls must use an acceptable method of contraception, including abstinence, a barrier method (diaphragm or condom), Depo-Provera, or an oral contraceptive, for the duration of the study.

5. Currently obese (BMI >95%ile for age/sex if age < 18 years, BMI > 30 kg/m2 age 18 – 20 years). In children, obesity is defined with respect to age- and sex based as greater than or equal to the 95th%ile1, whereas in adults, an absolute threshold is used.

6. Parental/guardian permission (informed consent) and if appropriate, child assent.

Exclusion Criteria

1. Diabetes mellitus requiring insulin or insulin secretagogue. (Laboratory values: HgbA1c ≥8.5%)

2. Cardiovascular condition, as defined as any of the following: i) abnormal blood pressure, defined as <3%ile or >97%ile for age, sex and height 3, for adult participants abnormal blood pressure is defined as Stage 2 hypertension (systolic BP > 160 mm Hg or diastolic BP > 100 mm Hg); ii) history of cardiac arrhythmia or arrhythmia detected on screening ECG; iii) history of heart failure and/or cardiomyopathy; iv) prolonged QTc interval (QTc > 460 msec), and/or long QT syndrome phenotype and/or positive genotype for long QT syndrome pathogenic mutations.

3. Concurrent use of medications known to prolong QTc interval and pose high risk for Torsades de Pointes (TdP) according to the current information available ( Concomitant medications will be assessed by the Investigational Drug Service (IDS) pharmacist, in collaboration with the study cardiologist, if additional clarification is needed. In addition, we require that potential participants be on a stable dose for at least 2 months of any medication with the potential to alter cardiac rhythm to ensure the screening ECG reflects steady-state physiology.

4. Laboratory abnormalities that indicate abnormal sodium level, liver or renal disease, or anemia:

Sodium – Outside Normal Range; Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)/SGOT > 3.0 X's Upper Limit of Normal (ULN); Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)/SGPT > 3.0 X's Upper Limit of Normal (ULN); Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR) < 60 mL/min/1.73m2; Hemoglobin < 10 g/dL

5. Seizure in the past 12 mos.

6. History of gastrectomy, gastric bypass, small or large bowel resection.

7. History of active substance abuse.

8. Current use of psychiatric medications. Current psychotic disorder and/or suicidality.

9. Other chronic medical conditions or medications likely to affect appetite or food intake.

10. Any investigational drug use within 30 days prior to enrollment.

11. Pregnant or lactating females.

12. Inability to take intranasal medication (e.g., recent injury)

13. Parents/guardians or subjects who, in the opinion of the Investigator, may be non-compliant with study schedules or procedures.

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 13 Years

Maximum Age: 19 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Shana McCormack, MD
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor-Investigator: Shana McCormack, MD, Attending Physician, Sponsor Investigator – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Shana E McCormack, MD, MTR, Principal Investigator, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

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