Diabetics Benefit from Laughter
According to the results of a new study, mirthful laughter can benefit diabetics. The study adds to a growing interest in mind-body research, known as lifestyle medicine. Laughter has been shown to benefit health, and research continues to uncover physiologic changes that occur in the body that benefit health when we laugh.
Norman Cousins wrote about it in 1979, publishing Anatomy of an Illness: A Patient’s Perspective, after Cousin’s illness from an autoimmune disease went into remission after his doctor approved laughter as part of his treatment. Cousins believed laughter could benefit health, so he followed a steady regimen that included watching funny videos. At the time, the benefits of laughter had only been suggested.
Since then, scientists have discovered that laughter releases mood-elevating hormones (beta-endorphins)), and boosts immunity by releasing human growth hormone (HGH). Just anticipating laughter was found to release beneficial hormones while lower levels of harmful chemicals in the body. Those studies furthered our understanding of the genuine health benefits of laughter.
Scientists, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist, of Loma Linda University, and Stanley Tan, MD, PhD an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at Oak Crest Health Research Institute, studied 20 diabetics at high risk for heart disease from high cholesterol and hypertension. They discovered that laughter lowered inflammation, and raised good cholesterol levels among diabetics, as the result of laughter. Dr. Berk had performed previous studies that explore laughter for health benefits, beginning in the 1980’s.
The scientists divided diabetics into either a laughter group, or a non-laughter group for the new study. Both groups of diabetics were given standard blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes treatment with medications. The groups were followed for 12 months.
Diabetics in the laughter group had lower levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, improved HDL (good cholesterol), and decreased markers of inflammation, measureable by blood tests, by the second month of watching self-chosen funny videos. The findings indicated the diabetics in the laughter group had lower stress, and had reduced their risk factors for heart disease from engaging in laughter.
After one year, HDL levels rose by twenty-six percent and C-reactive protein was found to be sixty-six percent lower in the diabetic group who engaged in regular laughter. The control group, who received standard medical therapy, experienced a three percent rise in HDL, and twenty-six percent reductions in C-reactive protein, in comparison, showing that diabetics benefited from laughter.
“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,” says Dr. Berk.
Diabetics, especially at risk for complications related to heart disease, benefit from laughter. The new study is more proof that laughter has genuine health benefits.