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Comprise on Health?

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By Dr Zeeshan Khan

In Pakistan, unfortunately oxytocin is being used blindly by farmers living in villages for milk let down in their animals without knowing its harmful effects on their animals. Farmers are using oxytocin injection before milking almost twice a day in cattle and buffaloes for this purpose. The purpose of using oxytocin injection in their animals by the farmers is to get more milk and hence, to get more profit after selling more milk to people but they don’t know its harmful effects on animals.

The farmers are using oxytocin without the veterinarian’s advice and the purchase of oxytocin does not require any prescription and is easily available even on a general store of villages. It is widely being used in the dairy industry despite there being a ban on its sale, except by a prescription from a registered medical practitioner.

Oxytocin is typically remembered for the effect it has on pro-social behaviors, such as its role in facilitating trust and attachment between individuals. Consequently, oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone”.There is consensus that oxytocin modulates fear and anxiety; that is, it does not directly elicit fear or anxiety.

Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide. Oxytocin is normally produced by the para-ventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary.It plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction in both sexes, and during and after childbirth.This helps with birth, bonding with the baby, and milk production. Oxytocin was discovered by Henry Dale in 1906.Physiologically this hormone is important for milk let down as it causes contraction of smooth muscle cells surrounding the milk producing cells called as alveoli and also helpful in birth as it causes contraction of smooth muscles of uterus to expel the fetus outside the body of the mother.

The peripheral actions of oxytocin mainly reflect secretion from the pituitary gland.

In lactating (breastfeeding) mothers, oxytocin acts at the mammary glands, causing milk to be ‘let down’ into subareolar sinuses, from where it can be excreted via the nipple.Suckling by the infant at the nipple is relayed by spinal nerves to the hypothalamus.

Important for cervical dilation before birth, oxytocin causes contractions during the second and third stages of labor. Oxytocin release during breastfeeding causes mild but often painful contractions during the first few weeks of lactation. Due to its similarity to vasopressin, it can reduce the excretion of urine slightly.

A 2012 paper suggested that oxytocin neurons in the para-ventricular hypothalamus in the brain may play a key role in suppressing appetite under normal conditions and that other hypothalamic neurons may trigger eating via inhibition of these oxytocin neurons.

Oxytocin has been implicated in the etiology of autism, with one report suggesting autism is correlated with genomic deletion of the gene containing the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Studies involving Caucasian and Finnish samples and Chinese Han families provide support for the relationship of OXTR with autism.Autism may also be associated with an aberrant methylation of OXTR.

Nasally administered oxytocin has been reported to reduce fear, possibly by inhibiting the amygdala (which is thought to be responsible for fear responses).

It has also been shown that testosterone directly suppresses oxytocin in mice.

In some studies, high levels of plasma oxytocin have been correlated with romantic attachment.

Oxytocin affects social distance between adult males and females, and may be responsible at least in part for romantic attraction and subsequent monogamous pair bonding.

The use of oxytocin in animals is unethical because the use for milk let down is painful to animals as the action of hormone causes the uterus of the cattle to contract, causing immense pain. Oxytocin is banned under Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), the Food and Consumable Substances Adulteration Act and the Drug Control Laws cannot be sold without a prescription from a registered medical practitioner. The law clearly bans the “introducing (of) any substance into the female organ of a milch animal with the object of drawing off from the animal any secretion of milk.” However, this drug is mostly used on cattle through direct injection.

Not only this drug makes cows barren sooner but also lowers the lifespan of the animal, thus causing economic loss to the owner in the long run. The frequent use of oxytocin in animals also cause decreased birth rate, low quality of milk produced and animals culled earlier. Medical experts have pointed out that use of the sustained use of drug can cause hormonal imbalance in animals and harms the reproductive system of animals, reducing their lifespan. Oxytocin use for milk let down also increases the chances of mastitis (locally called as saroo) because sustained use for milk let down may cause damage to milk synthesizing cells.

There are many adverse effects on humans due to consumption of milk obtained from animals subjected to oxytocin injections. Medical experts have pointed out that use of the drug can cause hormonal imbalance in humans. Due to hormonal imbalances created by exogenous source of hormones like oxytocin in milk and dairy products, the age at which girls attain menarche has come down drastically from 16 years of age to 10 years of age. Boys have been diagnosed with gynaecomastia (breast enlargement).Children are most susceptible to its effects and it is known to have caused imbalanced hearing and weak eyesight.Common symptoms are exhaustion and loss of energy.

Pregnant women should avoid milk that may have been adulterated with oxytocin because use of such milk by the pregnant women may lead to abortion and babies may born with deformities and low resistance levels. Use of such milk also increases the risk of haemorrhage in mothers after birth. Individual women may be hypersensitive to oxytocin and it can inhibit breastfeeding. Oxytocin seriously affects the growth of hormones especially in females because of which minor girls attain early puberty.

Use of oxytocin in dairy animals for milk letdown should be banned in rural as well as in urban and peri urban areas and stringent monitoring policy should be designed and implemented.

Oxytocin should not be available without the permission of veterinary practitioner and prescription. Farmers should be educated about the adverse effects of oxytocin use and proper platform should be provided to livestock extension departments for this purpose.

Strict action should be taken against the illegal sellers and buyers. It is important to enforce the regulations of oxytocin use. No food should be produced, for human consumption, with additives.

Monsanto and others who believe in factory farming are working hard to produce food for maximum profit without regard to damage to us.

The best thing I can suggest to my Pakistanis is to get the whole banning thing under control with a specific law and we may follow India in this regard as it has banned it recently by a proper law without prescription.Use education to create awareness if you can teach farmers that the use of oxytocin will make them barren sooner and reduce their lifespan, i’m sure they will respond.

Dr. Zeeshan Khan is a medical doctor by profession, a content writer, freelance writer and poet. He can be reached at Twitter: @DrZeeshanKhanA1 and also Email: [email protected]

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