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Bad Medicine

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

In a laugh study conducted at Loma Linda University in 2001, researchers enlisted a group of 16 healthy male volunteers. The participants watched a humorous video or a "neutral" video that wasn't funny. (I want someone to invite me to one of these research groups!)

Then they had their blood drawn. The findings were amazing: The group that watched the funny video showed a decrease in their stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and an increase in beta-endorphins, which are chemicals that can relieve depression. They also had an increase in human growth hormone, which boosts the immune system.

Lee Berk, the team's lead researcher, summed up the study: "Our findings lead us to believe that by seeking out positive experiences that make us laugh, we can do a lot with our physiology to stay well."

Perhaps you've heard the expression, "People are like elevators; they can bring you up or bring you down." The study really started me thinking: Do the people in my life bring joy and laughter? Or are they negative?

I am happy to report that only one negative person came to mind good news, because I know a lot of people.

But consider this: There are many things in life that can influence your health. Eating right and exercising are only a portion of your health equation. Your environment can play a huge role in your health and well-being. According to the Loma Linda study, laughter can also create the following benefits:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Improve circulation
  • Boost your respiratory system
  • Help to relax your muscles

Berk said: "The physiological effects of a single one-hour session viewing a humorous video appear to last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours in different individuals."

Think about this study next time you turn on your TV or pick out a movie: The health effects of humorous entertainment can last for up to 24 hours. I certainly don't know of any medication with effects like that.

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist, and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!