Health tips — December 2014

How belly laughs can lower stress and how fast-paced films can boost snacking.

Laugh it up

Recent research from Loma Linda University in California shows that belly laughs not only lower stress, but can also improve memory. The study tested the cortisol levels and memory recall of adults in their late 60s, some of whom first watched a funny 20-minute video. The video-watchers showed decreased levels of the stress hormone and greater memory recall compared with those who didn’t see the video. "Laughter is turning out to be not only good medicine, but also a memory enhancer adding to our quality of life," says study co-author Lee Berk.

Some movies boost the munchies

If you’re planning to catch few action flicks this holiday season, you might want to skip the popcorn. That’s because if you’re watching a stimulating, fast-paced film while snacking, your mouth will see more action too, says Aner Tal, a researcher at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. In his study of 94 undergraduate students, those who watched 20 minutes of an action movie ate almost twice as many snacks — and consumed 65% more calories — than those who instead watched a segment of a talk show. What gives? Action movies can be so engaging, they distract you from how much you’re eating, says Tal.