A chuckle a day ...

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Times Staff Writer

NO joke. A good belly laugh -- or even the anticipation of laughter -- appears to beneficially affect the body’s hormones.

Researchers at Loma Linda University and Oakcrest Health Research Institute in Yucaipa discovered this in a study of 32 healthy men, half of whom were instructed to view a one-hour humorous video of their own selection. The other half simply sat in a room with an assortment of magazines.

Blood was drawn before, during and after the trial.

The scientists found that those chosen to watch the humorous video had, on average, 27% more beta-endorphins and 87% more human growth hormone in their blood than the control group -- before the video clips even started to roll. The levels of these beneficial hormones remained elevated during and after the experiment.


The research, presented at a meeting in San Francisco last weekend, builds on previous studies that show exposure to humor has other healthful effects, such as lowering levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.

“The benefits of laughter are similar to exercise,” says lead researcher Lee Berk of Loma Linda University. “Laughter has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Blood pressure is lowered overall and resting heart rate decreases. Additionally, the immune system appears to get tuned up.”

In short, he says, “We should become more serious about laughter.”