According to Psychology Today, eating any type of food stimulates release of the hormone oxytocin, which affects the brain's responses to intimacy. It is also affected by other senses, including smell, touch and sight. Increasing intimacy with a partner and being aware of various sensory experiences in the world increases levels of the hormone.
Paul Zak, in an article for Psychology Today, relates that sharing meals, being affectionate with pets, hugging other people, soaking in a hot bath, giving gifts and meditating are additional ways that humans can increase oxytocin production through the use of their senses. The effects of the hormone depend more on changes in levels rather than total levels. Amounts in the brain change constantly to help the human body adjust to social interactions. Increasing levels of oxytocin improve understanding and empathy with others.
Oxytocin plays an important role in the brain's impulses to be intimate, especially relating to sexual reproduction. The brain releases the hormone in large amounts during and after childbirth to promote maternal bonding and lactation. It also plays a role in sexual experiences, such as pair bonding and sexual orgasm. Scientists believe it also may relate to seeking partners of the same race and rejecting those who are physically different. The hormone is also sometimes associated with aggressive behavior.
Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls certain metabolic processes, such as hunger, body temperature, thirst, sleep and circadian rhythms. It also controls parenting urges and other behaviors relating to attachment.