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Laughter Ė Itís Heart Healthy and Low in Calories!
by Mad Dog


T
est subjects burned 20 percent more calories when watching clips of the Bill Cosby Show than when watching a video of sheep grazing in an English meadow. Of course that might have been caused less from the laughter and more from the difference between being awake and asleep.
If youíve ever spent time sitting in the bathroom leafing through Readerís Digest ó the only place other than the doctorís office itís allowed to be ó you know that Laughter is the Best Medicine. Of course if you spend too much time in the bathroom you might want to ask your doctor for something stronger. What you probably donít realize is that Readerís Digest is the Nostradamus of periodicals. Thatís right, after years of their insistence we now have scientific evidence that laughter may actually be the best medicine. This could open the floodgates. The next thing you know weíll learn that humor is indeed in uniform, it really is all in a dayís work, and condensing articles so people with ADHD can enjoy them was a smart idea long before that Utne guy could even read.

   According to two recent studies, laughing can not only help you lose weight, itís good for the heart. Donít ever let it be said that I donít do my part to promote good health. The first study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity (motto: ďSlimmer than the U.S. Congress and more continentalĒ) by researchers from Vanderbilt University. They reported that their test subjects burned 20 percent more calories when watching clips of the Bill Cosby Show than when watching a video of sheep grazing in an English meadow. Of course that might have been caused less from the laughter and more from the difference between being awake and asleep. Or more correctly, asleep and deep asleep. If laughing burns calories you can, in fact, lose weight if you laugh more. Pretty funny stuff, isnít it?


Donít be surprised if you start seeing comic strips, comedy films, and forwarded emails emblazoned with a ďHeart HealthyĒ emblem. Yeah right, like any forwarded email within the past six years has been remotely funny.
   ďSo how much laughter do I need to lose weight?Ē youíre probably asking, wondering whether it would be better to chuckle over the comics, chortle at Dave Chapelle, or laugh uproariously at a politician acting like heís telling the truth. Since the government hasnít issued a Minimum Daily Requirement for laughter yet, nor have they incorporated laughing into the new food pyramid, which is a shame because itís so silly that just looking at it will make you laugh and lose weight, we turn to the Vanderbilt crew. They say that 10-15 minutes of laughter will burn 50 calories. This is about the same number youíll find in a medium square of chocolate. In other words, if you went to the local dodecaplex and watched a really funny movie, you could calorically break even by eating eight squares of chocolate, which is about 1/16th of the typical movie theater candy bar. If you watch a drama youíre in trouble, because every bite will go to your thighs. When word gets out about this weíll probably see everyone in the theater take a mouthful of food after each laugh. Or every other one if itís a crowd that wants to lose weight.

   But wait, thereís more! While youíre laughing, not only will the pounds be melting away, youíll also be helping your heart. According to a study done at the University of Maryland (motto: ďItís not our fault the terrapin was the only mascot leftĒ), when subjects watched King Pin, which for research purposes is considered a funny movie, their blood vessels expanded and contracted more effectively in response to changes in blood flow. One of the researchers says this means laughing may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Donít be surprised if you start seeing comic strips, comedy films, and forwarded emails emblazoned with a ďHeart HealthyĒ emblem. Yeah right, like any forwarded email within the past six years has been remotely funny.


Thatís why itís a good thing an English molecular neurobiologist who does stand-up comedy specializing in scientific jokes has come to our rescue. And yes, I did say she specializes in scientific humor.
   This means that, contrary to what your parents spent years trying to tell you, TV sitcoms can actually be good for you. Well, as long as you find a good one. And disconnect the automatic Cheetohs dispenser thatís built into your new La-Z-Boy recliner. The question is, Can you find a good one? And if you can, how do you find the funniest one?

   Forget looking for the show with the loudest laugh track, if you need to be prompted so you recognize the jokes thereís a real problem. You can also forget using the showís ratings, as Everyone Loves Raymond so aptly proved. What we need is a more scientific method. Thatís why itís a good thing an English molecular neurobiologist who does stand-up comedy specializing in scientific jokes has come to our rescue. And yes, I did say she specializes in scientific humor. What, you thought Gallagher had that market cornered?

   Dr Helen Pilcher devised a formula she claims determines the funniest sitcom. She says a showís Comedic Value is determined by the formula ((R x D + V) x F) + S all divided by A, where R is the recognizability of the main character, D is their delusions of grandeur, V is the verbal wit of the script, F is the amount someone falls over or suffers a physical injury, S is the difference in social status between the highest- and lowest-ranking characters, and A is the success of any scheme in the show (A). And you thought high school math would never come in handy.

   Unfortunately she only analyzed British sitcoms, so here in the U.S. weíre on our own. That means youíre going to have to find the funny shows the good old fashioned way ó by watching every one of them. On the other hand, you could forget that and just go for a walk. Now thatís funny. But donít stop laughing, itís good for you.

©2005 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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