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Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter

  1. Part of the problem in obtaining proof that laughter promotes health or prolongs life is that it is sometimes viewed as being synonymous with humor and happiness. Laughter is not the same as humor or happiness.

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Laughter is the physical and physiological response to humor that frequently results in a feeling of happiness.

 

The only link between all of these is that happy people and those with a good sense of humor are more apt to laugh at something that is funny than their crabby counterparts.

A prior article, titled Why Do Happy People and Optimists Live Longer?, reviewed the evidence that validates this view and discussed possible explanations for such relationships. Since then, this belief has been bolstered by other reports that also shed light on some mechanisms of action that may be responsible.

In one study of 2,500 senior citizens that were followed for six years, those who scored high on a happiness quiz had much fewer strokes than those at the bottom of the scale.

In another study of more than 200 middle-aged healthy London civil service employees, those who reported feeling happy almost every day, whether while at work or on weekends, were significantly healthier and had lower heart rates than others who were not as consistently jolly and gleeful.

Researchers asked participants to rate their happiness at 33 times during work or leisure days during which they also monitored heart rate and blood pressure.

Saliva samples were collected eight times a day to determine concentrations of cortisol, a stress-related hormone that increases risk for heart disease and diabetes.

In addition, all were subjected to a mental stress test, following which they were asked to rate their happiness level on a scale of 1 to 5 and blood samples were obtained to measure fibrinogen, a blood clotting factor and index of inflammation associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease.

After adjusting for age, smoking, weight and other possible influences, it was found that people in the top fifth for daily happiness scores had cortisol levels 32 percent lower than those in the bottom quintile. Happiness was also linked to a lower average heart rate in men. While the majority showed some rise in fibrinogen following the mental stress test, this was far greater for the least happy group compared to those at the other end of the scale.

Surprisingly, there was no evidence of any relationship between happiness levels and age, sex, marital status or socioeconomic status. The happiest people reported feeling that way whether working or during leisure time but those who were least happy tended to report this more while they were working.

Low-Rung Employees, High Mortality Rates

These subjects were part of the large ongoing Whitehall II study designed to determine the causes and health effects of job stress in British civil service workers. The original Whitehall study that started in 1967 showed that males in the lowest clerical jobs had the highest overall mortality rate and heart disease death rate whereas top administrators had the least; there was a consistent inverse correlation between mortality and grade of employment for those in between.

The second, Whitehall II, began in 1985, and was designed to confirm and explore the reasons for this disparity. In one phase, investigators interviewed over 2,000 male civil servants aged 45-68 who had completed questionnaires detailing their medical history, job title and responsibilities, mental health, diet, smoking, alcohol use and physical exercise habits.

Various risk factors for coronary disease were measured including heart rate variability (HRV), which reflects the heart‘s ability to adapt to changing situations such as increased physical activity and emotional distress. As emphasized previously, low HRV, a strong predictor of sudden death and coronary events, may be the most accurate way to assess the severity of job stress.

Researchers very recently reported that a diminished HRV was more common in workers at the bottom of the corporate ladder. However, it was also associated with job stress due to a sense of little job control that was independent of civil service employment grade. One might assume that frustrated workers with little job control would be less happy than others.

HeartMath studies have also confirmed that feelings of frustration lower HRV while those of happiness and satisfaction have the opposite effect. In addition, a prior Whitehall II report on male workers showing a link between low HRV and high job stress levels may help explain why both, as well as depression, can contribute to coronary disease.

Low HRV was associated with an increase in cortisol, fibrinogen and other chemicals believed to cause insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension and other manifestations of metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This suggests that it is not that healthy people are happy but rather that they promote their health by being happy and thus have a higher HRV

Does Laughter Really Help?

While happiness may be associated with better health or longevity, is there any proof that laughter per se provides similar benefits?

Japanese researchers suggested it might help patients with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of this disease. They showed that there was a significantly smaller spike in blood sugar after a meal when diabetics watched a popular comedy show compared to listening to a boring lecture.

In another study of patients allergic to dust mites and other common irritants, skin lesions shrank after watching Charlie Chaplin‘s antics in Modern Times, whereas a video containing weather information had no effect. There is abundant evidence that laughter can relieve pain, as Norman Cousins had claimed.

A five-year study that began in 2000 called Rx Laughter at UCLA‘s Jonsson Cancer Centre was designed to determine if laughter could lessen the pain and improve immune system function in children suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases.

It started with the help of a $75,000 grant from cable TV network Comedy Central by working with hundreds of children to determine what makes them laugh.

One of the methods used was to ask them to hold their arms in cold water as long as they could for up to three minutes. It was found that kids watching funny videos during the experiment reported significantly less pain and could also keep their arms in the cold water longer than controls not viewing the videos.

Other benefits of laughing reported by this and other groups here and abroad include:

•Relaxation and reduction in muscle tension.
•Lowered production of stress hormones.
•Improved immune system function.
•Reduction in blood pressure.
•Clearing the lungs by dislodging mucous plugs.
•Increasing the production of salivary immunoglobulin A, which defends against infectious organisms that enter through the respiratory tract.
•Aerobic effects that increased the body‘s ability to utilize oxygen.
•A rapid ability to disregard aches and pains or to perceive them as less severe.

SourceArticle written by : Paul J. Rosch, M.D.  President, The American Institute of Stress

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Two Foods You Should Never, Ever Eat After Exercise

Did you know that what you eat directly after exercising – typically within two hours – can have a significant impact on the health benefits you reap from your exercise?

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Consuming sugar within this post-exercise window, will negatively affect both your insulin sensitivity and your human growth hormone (HGH) production.

A recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that eating a low-carbohydrate meal after aerobic exercise enhances your insulin sensitivity. This is highly beneficial, since impaired insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, is the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes and a significant risk factor for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

In addition, as HGH Magazine explains, consuming fructose, including that from fruit juices, within this two-hour window will decimate your natural HGH production:

“A high sugar meal after working out, or even a recovery drink (containing high sugar) after working out, will stop the benefits of exercise induced HGH. You can work out for hours, then eat a high sugar candy bar or have a high sugar energy drink, and this will shut down the synergistic benefits of HGH.

… If you miss reaching HGH release during working out, you will still receive the calorie burning benefit from the workout. However, you’ll miss the HGH “synergy bonus” of enhanced fat burning for two hours after working out.

This is an extremely important fact to remember if you want to cut body fat and shed a few pounds.

The University of Virginia research team demonstrated that carbohydrates are burned during exercise in direct proportion to the intensity of training. Fat burning is also correlated with intensity. However, the actual fat burning takes place after the workout, during the recovery.

This makes the “Synergy Window,” the 2 hour period after a workout, very important in maximizing HGH, once it’s released during exercise.

… If you are middle-age and want all the benefits from exercise induced HGH, then apply this strategy.”

Fitness expert Phil Campbell, author of Ready, Set, Go! further explains how you can maximize your HGH production by limiting sugar intake for two hours post exercise, in this article on HowToBeFit.com.

Exercising one hour a week and getting the same results as traditional strength training might sound impossible. However, University of Florida orthopedics researchers have developed a system that may do just that, and as you will read in my comment below, the kind of exercise you perform can dramatically reduce the time you spend in the gym while still getting better results than you did before.

The system created by University of Florida researchers uses eccentric (negative) resistance training, which capitalizes on the fact that the human body can support and lower weights that are too heavy to lift.

According to UF Health Science Center:

“Through a system of motors, pulleys, cams and sensors it adds weight when a person is performing a lowering motion, and removes that weight when the person is lifting. As a result, the body starts seeing loads, resistance, and forces that it doesn’t normally see”.

Other scientists have found additional clues that explain how exercise reshapes and strengthens more than just your muscles.

It changes your brain too.

In the late 1990s, researchers proved that human and animal brains produce new brain cells, and that exercise increases the process. But precisely how exercise affects the intricate workings of your brain at a cellular level remained a mystery.

However, a number of new studies have begun to identify the specific mechanisms, and have raised new questions about just how exercise reshapes your brain.

In some studies, scientists have been manipulating the levels of bone-morphogenetic protein (BMP) in the brains of mice. The more active BMP becomes, the more inactive your brain stem cells become and the fewer new brain cells you produce. Exercise reverses some of the effects of BMP.

According to the New York Times:

“BMP signaling was found to be playing a surprising, protective role for the brain’s stem cells … Without BMP signals to inhibit them, the stem cells began dividing rapidly, producing hordes of new neurons.”

Resources:

UF Health Science Center February 23, 2010

New York Times July 7, 2010

PloS One October 20, 2009; 4(10):e7506

Cell Stem Cell July 2, 2010; 7(1):78-89

Journal of Applied Physiology December 31, 2009

HGH Magazine

HowToBeFit.com

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Why Some Diets Work Better for Some People than Others

Ever notice some people seem to eat anything they want and never gain a pound, while others seem to gain weight just by looking at fattening foods? You may be seeing things correctly after all. According to research this may have a biological cause. Using fruit flies, researchers have found that genes interacting with diet, rather than diet alone, are the main cause of variation in metabolic traits, such as body weight. This helps explain why some diets work better for some people than ot…hers, and suggests that future diets should be tailored to an individual’s genes rather than to physical appearance.

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“There is no one-size-fits all solution to the diseases of obesity and type-2 diabetes,” said Laura K. Reed, the lead investigator in the work. “Each person has a unique set of genetic and environmental factors contributing to his or her metabolic health, and as a society, we should stop looking for a panacea and start accepting that this is a complex problem that may have a different solution for each individual.”

To make this discovery, the scientists studied 146 different genetic lines of fruit flies that were fed four different diets (nutritionally balanced, low calorie, high sugar, and high fat). Researchers then measured a variety of metabolic traits, including body weight, in each group. Flies in some of the genetic lines were highly sensitive to their diets, as reflected by changes in body weight, while flies of other lines showed no change in weight across diets. The scientists were able to ascertain what portion of the total variation in the metabolic traits was determined by genetics alone, by diet alone, or by the interaction between genotype and diet. Results showed that diet alone made a small contribution to the total variation, while genotype and genotype interactions with diet made very large contributions. This study strongly suggests that some individuals can achieve benefits from altering their dietary habits, while the same changes for others will have virtually no effect.

“The summer beach season often serves as a ‘gut check’ for many in terms of their weight,” said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Genetics. “This research explains why the one-size-fits-all approach offered by many diet programs can have dramatically different effects for people who try them.”


Source
: Elements4Health

 

An Increase in Leptin Could Promote Colorectal Cancer

While researchers have known that obesity increases the risk for the development of colon cancer, the underlying molecular mechanisms have remained unclear.
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Now, for the first time, researchers have found that an increase in leptin, a cytokine that is normally increased in obese or overweight individuals, may promote colorectal neoplasms by activating colorectal cancer stem cells.

Cancer stem cells constitute a small subfraction of tumor cells that are characterized by long lifespan and capacity for self-renewal, and are responsible for tumor development, resistance to treatments and cancer recurrence. In colon cancer, leptin is able to increase the growth, survival, and resistance to certain chemotherapy treatments in this key cell population.

Leptin, a fat tissue-derived pluripotent cytokine regulating appetite and energy balance in the brain, also controls many physiological and pathological processes in peripheral organs, including carcinogenesis.

Colon cancer has increased in developed countries, possibly due to sedentary lifestyles and high caloric diets. Prior research has linked obesity to colorectal cancer risk by .4-1.0 fold in men and up to 2.0 fold in premenopausal women.

“Since targeting cancer stem cells may be a translationally relevant strategy to improve clinical outcomes, interfering with leptin signaling by targeting leptin receptors might become a novel attractive option for colorectal cancer treatment, particularly in obese patients,” says senior author of the study, Eva Surmacz.

“It is important to consider that cancer stem cells have been identified in several human malignancies,” says Monica Bartucci, study co-author. “Understanding how cancer stem cells interact with a tumor environment, including hormones like leptin, is likely to have significant implications for treatment management of different cancer types in human patients. We hope, in collaboration with Dr. Surmacz, not only to test the effects of leptin antagonist compounds on colon cancer stem cells but also to study the results of leptin stimulation on cancer stem cells isolated in other cancer tissues.”

Source: Elements4Health

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Wheat,Rye & Barley Triggers Gut Disease

The precise cause of the immune reaction that leads to coeliac disease has been discovered.

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Foods like cake are off-limit to coeliacs

Three key substances in the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley trigger the digestive condition, UK and Australian researchers say.

This gives a potential new target for developing treatments and even a vaccine, they believe.

Coeliac disease is caused by an intolerance to gluten found in foods like bread, pasta and biscuits.

It is thought to affect around 1 in every 100 people in the UK, particularly women.

The link between gluten and coeliac disease was first established 60 years ago but scientists have struggled to pinpoint the precise component in gluten that triggers it.

The research, published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, studied 200 patients with coeliac disease attending clinics in Oxford and Melbourne.

The volunteers were asked to eat bread, rye muffins or boiled barley. Six days later they had blood samples taken to measure their immune response to thousands of different gluten fragments, or peptides.

The tests identified 90 peptides that caused some level of immune reaction, but three were found to be particularly toxic.

Professor Bob Anderson, head of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, said: “These three components account for the majority of the immune response to gluten that is observed in people with coeliac disease.”

Coeliac disease can be managed with a gluten-free diet but this is often a challenge for patients. Nearly half still have damage to their intestines five years after starting a gluten-free diet.

Professor Anderson said one potential new therapy is already being developed, using immunotherapy to expose people with coeliac disease to tiny amounts of the three toxic peptides.

Early results of the trial are expected in the next few months.

Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of the charity Coeliac UK, said the new finding could potentially help lead to a vaccine against coeliac disease but far more research was needed.

She said: “It’s an important piece of the jigsaw but a lot of further work remains so nobody should be expecting a practical solution in their surgery within the next 10 years.”

The symptoms of coeliac disease vary from person to person and can range from very mild to severe.

Possible symptoms include diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, recurrent stomach pain, tiredness, headaches, weight loss and mouth ulcers.

Some symptoms may be mistaken as irritable bowel syndrome or wheat intolerance.

COELIAC DISEASE
*Continue reading the main story Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease
*Gluten found in wheat, barley and rye triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease
*This damages the lining of the small intestine
*Other parts of the body may be affected
Source: Coeliac UK

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