Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Laughter Remains Good Medicine

Date:
April 17, 2009
Source:
American Physiological Society
Summary:
More on the mind-emotion-disease model: A new study finds that "mirthful laughter," coupled with standard diabetic treatment, raises good cholesterol and may lower heart attack risk.

The connection between the body, mind and spirit has been the subject of conventional scientific inquiry for some 20 years. The notion that psychosocial and societal considerations have a role in maintaining health and preventing disease became crystallized as a result of the experiences of a layman, Norman Cousins. In the 1970s, Cousins, then a writer and magazine editor of the popular Saturday Review, was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

He theorized that if stress could worsen his condition, as some evidence suggested at the time, then positive emotions could improve his health. As a result, he prescribed himself, with the approval of his doctor, a regimen of humorous videos and shows like Candid Camera©. Ultimately, the disease went into remission and Cousins wrote a paper that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine  and  a book about his experience, Anatomy of an Illness: A Patient’s Perspective, which was published in 1979. The book became a best seller and led to the investigation of a new field, known then as whole-person care or integrative medicine and now, lifestyle medicine.

Background

The unscientific foundation that was laid down by Cousins was taken up by many medical researchers including the academic medical researcher Dr. Lee Berk in the  l980s. In earlier work, Berk and his colleagues discovered that the anticipation of “mirthful laughter” had surprising and significant effects. Two hormones – beta-endorphins (the family of chemicals that  elevates mood state) and human growth hormone (HGH; which helps with optimizing immunity) – increased by 27% and 87 % respectively in study subjects who anticipated watching a humorous video. There was no such increase among the control group who did not anticipate watching the humorous film. 

In another study, they found that the same anticipation of mirthful laughter reduced the levels of three detrimental stress hormones. Cortisol (termed “the steroid stress hormone”), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and dopac, (the major catabolite of  dopamine), were reduced 39, 70 and 38%, respectively (statistically significant compared to the control group).  Chronically released high levels of these stress hormones  can be detremential to  the immune system. 

Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist, of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, has paired with Stanley Tan, MD, PhD an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at Oak Crest Health Research Institute, Loma Linda, CA, to examine the effect of “mirthful laughter” on individuals with diabetes. Diabetes is a metabolic syndrome characterized by the risk of heart attack, blindness and other neurological, immune and blood vessel complications. They found that mirthful laughter, as a preventive adjunct therapy in diabetes care, raised good cholesterol and lowered inflammation. The researchers will present their findings entitled Mirthful Laughter, As Adjunct Therapy in Diabetic Care, Increases HDL Cholesterol and Attenuates Inflammatory Cytokines and hs-CRP and Possible CVD Risk.  They will present the findings at the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society, which is part of the Experimental Biology 2009 scientific conference. The meeting will be held April 18-22, 2009 in New Orleans.

The Study

A group of 20 high-risk diabetic patients with hypertension and hyperlipidemia were divided into two groups: Group C (control) and Group L (laughter).  Both groups were started on standard medications for diabetes (glipizide, TZD, metformin), hypertension (ACE inhibitor or ARB)) and hyperlipidemia (statins). The researchers followed both groups for 12 months, testing their blood for the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine;  HDL cholesterol; inflammatory cytokines TNF-α IFN-γ and IL-6, which contribute to the acceleration of atherosclerosis and C-reactive proteins (hs-CRP), a marker of inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Group L viewed self-selected humor for 30 minutes in addition to the standard therapies described above.

Results

The patients in the laughter group (Group L) had lower epinephrine and norepinephrine levels by the second month, suggesting lower stress levels. They had increased HDL (good) cholesterol. The laughter group also had lower levels of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-6 and hs-CRP levels, indicating lower levels of inflammation.

At the end of one year, the research team saw significant improvement in Group L:  HDL cholesterol had risen by 26 percent in Group L (laughter), and only 3 percent in the Group C (control). Harmful C-reactive proteins decreased 66 % in the laughter group vs. 26 percent for the control group. 

Conclusion

The study suggests that the addition of an adjunct therapeutic  mirthful laughter Rx (a potential modulator of positive mood state) to standard diabetes care may lower stress and inflammatory response and increase “good” cholesterol levels.  The authors conclude that mirthful laughter may thus lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome.  Further studies need to be done to expand and elucidate these findings.

In describing himself as a “hardcore medical clinician and scientist,” Dr. Berk says, “the best clinicians understand that there is an intrinsic physiological intervention brought about by positive emotions such as mirthful laughter, optimism and hope.  Lifestyle choices have a significant impact on health and disease  and these are choices  which we and the patient exercise control relative to prevention and treatment.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Physiological Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Physiological Society. "Laughter Remains Good Medicine." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090417084115.htm>.
American Physiological Society. (2009, April 17). Laughter Remains Good Medicine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090417084115.htm
American Physiological Society. "Laughter Remains Good Medicine." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090417084115.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) — The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) — Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) — Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) — Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins