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Laugh Yourself Silly – It’s Good For You

Posted May 16 2010 8:24pm

What makes you laugh? For some people it can be something as basic as watching someone slip on a banana peel or get a pie pushed in their face; for others, they like their humor a bit more sophisticated, or a lot raunchier. But whatever makes you laugh try and get a lot of it. Because a new study shows it could be really good for your health.laughing

The study, by a group of jolly japesters at Loma Linda University, suggests that repetitive laughter could help stimulate a person’s appetite, and have other impacts on the body that are similar to the effects of repetitive exercise.

Does that mean that instead of going for a 5 mile run you can just put on an old episode of “Seinfeld” and get the same benefit? Well, let’s take a look at what the researchers did and what conclusions they came to.

The researchers got 14 volunteers and had them watch one 20 minute video that was considered stressful or distressing, and another one that was considered funny. After each one they measured the volunteers blood pressure and took blood samples and examined them for levels of  leptin and grehlin, two hormones associated with appetite.

The distressing video the volunteers were shown was the first 20 minutes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” . If you have seen that you’ll know just how stressful it is, watching American soldiers fighting their way up the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in World War 2. It’s an amazing scene and one guaranteed to leave you exhausted.

For the funny video the volunteers were able to choose a movie clip they found hilarious, such as a Marx Brothers comedy, or a performance by their favorite stand-up comedian.

The researchers found that when the volunteers watched the distressing video their pre and post-viewing blood hormone levels were pretty much the same. But after watching the funny video their blood pressure was lower, their levels of leptin decreased and levels of ghrelin increased.

What does that mean? Well, those changes in blood pressure and hormone levels are very similar to what you would see in someone who exercised regularly, namely that exercise makes you hungry.

How is that useful? Well, some older patients suffering from a condition known as “wasting disease” are depressed and uninterested in eating. Because of their age they aren’t able to stimulate their appetite through exercise (and of course being depressed they may not feel like working out) but this study suggests that finding a way to make them laugh could help break the cycle, not just of lack of appetite but depression as well.

Sound far fetched?Well, this is just the latest in a long string of studies that show that laughter has some big, beneficial effects, everything from increasing the activity of T cells (which boosts your immune system) to decreasing the levels of stress hormones coursing through your veins.

Whatever the outcome, a good belly laugh is a heck of a lot more fun than taking a pill isn’t it?

So we went out and asked people what made them laugh. Check in tomorrow and we’ll show you what they said made them laugh. Unless you are Elyse’s boyfriend, you might not want to watch this.

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