This Week in Health: Effects of laughter similar to meditation


Laughter is associated with many health benefits Joyful laughter and meditation spark similar brain activity.
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Effects of humor-induced laughter similar to deep meditation

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 31 human subjects


Results: It appears that laughter may be the best medicine for both your body and your brain. A recent study from Loma Linda University found that joyful laughter produces brain waves that are similar to those associated with deep meditation. When engaging in mirthful laughter, participants produced brain gamma wave band frequencies much like what’s seen in people who reach a state of contentment and happiness through meditation. To gather this information, researchers had participants watch several short videos. Humorous clips induced the above mentioned brain activity, while spiritual videos sparked brain activity similar to when a person is at rest. However, when participants watched distressful clips, they exhibited flat brain wave bands. This type of brain activity is associated with detachment and escape.


Significance: Researchers say joyful laughter gives the brain a workout and allows for clearer thinking and more integrative thoughts. “This is of great value to individuals who need or want to revisit, reorganize, or rearrange various aspects of their lives or experiences, to make them feel whole or more focused,” principal investigator Dr. Lee Berk said in a statement. The study suggests that humor associated with mirthful laughter could be a beneficial lifestyle intervention that promotes wholeness, better health and overall wellness. It seems the act of laughing may also improve symptoms related to chronic medical conditions.


Marijuana associated with heart complications

Location of study: France

Results: A new study is linking marijuana use to serious heart-related complications, some of which could be fatal. The findings come from a study that analyzed marijuana-related health problems that were included in the French Addictovigilance Network from 2006 to 2010. The nationwide program gathers information about psychoactive drug abuse. Of the nearly 2,000 marijuana-related issues reported, 35 were associated with cardiovascular complications. This included 20 heart attacks. Another handful was affected by peripheral diseases impacting arteries in the limbs and brain. Nine patients actually died of complications related to marijuana.

Significance: “The interesting thing is that most of the cannabis-related cardiovascular complications appeared in men with an average age of 34,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the NYU Langone Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health. “Even though the numbers are small, we’re talking about life-threatening conditions.” According to Goldberg, marijuana is not as benign as many people think. As the debate over legalizing marijuana heats up throughout the United States, Goldberg and others warn about the potential risks.

More research connects red meat to heart disease

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: Over 292,000 patients over a 10-year period

Results: A recent study is supporting a potential link between iron consumption and coronary heart disease. A specific type of iron called heme iron, which is only present in meat, was found to increase the risk of heart disease by 57 percent. Nonheme iron, found in plant and vegetable sources, was not associated with any increase in risk. According to researchers, the body seems better able to control the absorption of iron derived from vegetables and iron supplements. However, heme iron is absorbed at a greater rate and may contribute to inflammation and tissue damage. These factors increase the risk for coronary heart disease.

Significance: The study shines a light on the long-debated relationship between meat consumption and coronary heart disease. It is particularly noteworthy as it focuses on total iron consumption and differentiates between these two different types of intake. Researchers say that the link between heme iron and heart disease may be explained by the high bioavailability of heme iron. It was also the primary source of iron for iron-replete study participants.

Type 2 diabetes may bring on brain degeneration

Location of study: U.S.

Study subjects: 614 people with diabetes

Results: A comprehensive new study has found a link between brain degeneration and Type 2 diabetes. The research also suggests that, despite what many clinicians believe, diabetes might not be directly linked to small vessel ischemic disease. When this condition occurs, the brain receives an insufficient amount of oxygenated blood. For the study, researchers used MRIs to evaluate the brain structure of patients with Type 2 diabetes. They found that a longer duration of diabetes was linked to loss in brain volume, especially in the gray matter.

Significance: “It just reemphasizes that diabetes is a very serious disease that has a very adverse effect upon the brain,” said lead author Dr. R. Nick Bryan of the Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Bryan, the research shows a direct association between diabetes and loss of brain volume and brain cells somewhat similar to what is seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

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