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Yuck it up, it might stimulate your appetite

April 26, 2010 | 12:32 pm

Laughter is the best medicine, but it might also help you work up an appetite, according to a new, small study presented at the Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim this week.

J9riijnc Researchers at Loma Linda University tested 14 men and women who watched two 20-minute videos, one upsetting and one humorous. The upsetting video was the first 20 very un-funny minutes of "Saving Private Ryan," and the funny video was one of the participants' choosing that was supposed to induce mirthful laughter.

Blood pressure and blood tests were taken just before and after watching the videos. Researchers specifically looked for levels of the hormones leptin and ghrelin in the blood. Both play a part in appetite; leptin signals the body when it's full, creating feelings of satiety, while ghrelin increases appetite.

Watching the sad video produced no significant changes in either hormone level. But when participants watched the funny video, leptin levels decreased while ghrelin levels went up. That, says the researchers, is similar to the way appetite can intensify during and after moderate physical exercise.

"The ultimate reality of this research is that laughter causes a wide variety of modulation and that the body's response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise," said Lee Berk in a news release. Berk, co-author of the study, is a psychoneuroimmunology researcher at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. "The value of the research is that it may provide for those who are health care providers with new insights and understandings, and thus further potential options for patients who cannot use physical activity to normalize or enhance their appetite."

The authors argue that those suffering from wasting diseases, chronic pain and depression could benefit from trying this method to regain their hunger.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times