If you have been enjoying the Lactobacillus reuteri yogurt that we make using extended fermentation to achieve high counts of the microbe, you are likely experiencing the benefits of the boost in oxytocin that includes:

  • Increased empathy, increased desire for social connection, reduced social anxiety, increased capacity for cooperation and collaboration
  • Increased feeling of calm, reduced feelings of stress
  • Restoration of youthful muscle mass and strength
  • Deeper sleep with extended periods of REM (the restorative phase of sleep responsible for better mental health)
  • Increased dermal collagen, smoother skin with fewer wrinkles
  • Accelerated healing
  • Preservation of bone density–One of the most important things ladies can do to maintain bone density
  • Improved immune response

Elegant research, especially that from the laboratory of Drs. Gimpl and Fahrenholz of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany have demonstrated that cholesterol is necessary for oxytocin to bind to the oxytocin receptor. “Our data suggest a direct and cooperative molecular interaction of cholesterol with OT [oxytocin] receptors. Cholesterol acts as an allosteric modulator and stabilizes the receptor in a high-affinity state for agonists . . .” In other words, oxytocin binds tightly to its receptor when cholesterol is available.

So what happens when you take a statin or other cholesterol-reducing drug? Could it block the action of oxytocin and thereby negate all the benefits we obtain from it such as emotional benefits, accelerated healing, and improved immune response? Studies to look at this connection specifically have not yet been performed, but consider that people who take statin drugs have been observed to experience:

  • Reduced ability to read facial cues—The ability to interpret facial cues is a major effect of oxytocin, reduced by statin drugs.
  • Irritability—that can manifest as homicidal impulses, threats to others, road rage, fear in family members, and damage to property.
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep disruption
  • Sexual dysfunction

Statins have serious social and emotional impacts on people taking them. While there has been speculation that statins exert such effects by interfering with serotonin metabolism, I think that you can see that interference with oxytocin binding could also explain many of these phenomena. The tragedy here is, of course, that people experience such effects while 1) obtaining little to no reduction in cardiovascular events, and 2) have the real causes of cardiovascular events ignored because of the misplaced focus on cholesterol and statin drugs, and 3) experience dramatic increase in the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, likely due to 4) marked disruptions in intestinal microbiome composition that, in turn, opens the door for many other long-term chronic health issues.

In other words, the widespread use of statin drugs that my colleagues view as lifesavers are associated with substantial social and emotional dysfunction, likely via interfering with the hormone of love and empathy, oxytocin while, in my view, providing little to no benefit.

If you’d like additional recipes that help restore lost microbes to provide other health benefits, be sure to see my new book, Super Gut, coming out Feb 1st, 2022. You will learn how to put microbes to work to shrink your waist, boost mood, increase childhood health, reduce arthritis pain, and other specific benefits.