The Recipe Doctor

From low-fat recipes to recipes designed for persons with diabetes, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, shares recipes and advice to create healthy meals that are guaranteed to please. [Editor's note: Elaine no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Studies point to humor’s benefits

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

For more than 10 years, laughter has been suspected of being a helpful component to medicine for pretty much whatever ails you. Studies by Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, a preventive care specialist at Loma Linda University, have suggested that laughter seems to increase the levels of two hormones: one that helps elevate mood (beta-endorphins), and one that helps optimize immunity (human growth hormone) and decrease three stress hormones that can be detrimental to the immune system when consistently high (cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac).

Berk’s latest study (presented at the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society in April 2009), looked specifically at the effect of laughter on 20 high-risk patients with diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. One group received the standard medications for diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, while the other group received the same medications plus viewed self-selected humor for 30 minutes a day.

After two months, the researchers noted that people in the laughter group had lower levels of various hormones and markers, which suggested lower stress levels and lower levels of inflammation. This group also showed an increase in good cholesterol. For example, after a year, HDL (good cholesterol) levels increased by 26% in the laughter group compared to 3% in the control group, and C-reactive protein levels (a possible marker for inflammation) decreased by 66% in the laughter group compared to 26% in the control group.

More studies need to be done, of course, but it sure looks like there are some potential health benefits to filling as much of your day as possible with laughter and positive emotions such as joy, hope, and optimism.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
The Recipe Doctor Blog


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