Laughter makes us hungry; which means laughter is like exercise
I stumbled across this interesting story about laughter affecting the body like exercise. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I have experienced times where I laughed so hard that my stomach muscles began aching and I knew that was a workout. I’ve also experienced a rise in my emotional mood after a good laughing session similar to a stint on the elliptical.
So I was excited to read this story:
Researchers measured the hormone levels of 14 volunteers before and after they watched a distressing or hilarious video clip. The researchers were particularly interested in two hormones known to regulate appetite: ghrelin, which spurs hunger, and leptin, which cues satiety.
The appetite hormones did not change significantly as people watched the upsetting video (the first 20 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”)
But after the amusing video clip — either of stand-up comedians or a funny film — hormone levels changed as if the participant had engaged in moderate physical exercise. Specifically, ghrelin levels rose and leptin levels fell, indicating a possible increase in appetite. The lower leptin levels would mean the body isn’t getting the “I’m full” message.
Overall, the finding adds to the understanding “that the body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise,” said study researcher Lee Berk of Loma Linda University in California in a press statement.
One thing that particularly excites me about this story is that they are acknowledging that exercise makes us hungry. So often we are told to “exercise more and eat less” as the way to good health, but exercise makes us hungry! It uses energy—calories—and means that we need more. And another thing that excites me about this story is that there’s no mention of eating restriction. There’s no caveat at the end saying, “be careful, fatties, if you laugh too much you’ll eat too much; only depressing movies for you!” In fact, the article wraps up on this awesome note:
Although changes in appetite were not directly assessed, by, say, recording what people ate, the finding could help doctors treat patients who are suffering from loss of appetite but are too ill to exercise, explained Berk.
“It may indeed be true that laughter is good medicine,” he said.