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Laugh as you read this: Maybe you'll remember it

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Before I forget, I have some good news and some bad news to share with you today.

Out of journalistic fairness, I will first point out both the good and the bad news were in fascinating stories emailed to me by my good friend and colleague Kevin Rollason, whose golf swing provides a constant source of amusement.

Which somehow brings us to the good news story, wherein scientists have recently discovered that laughter is, in fact, the best medicine, with the possible exception of medicine itself. Allow me to explain via the Q & A method.

Q: Where are your eyeglasses?

A: OK, you had them a minute ago, but you put them down on the coffee table. No, hold on, you left them in the bathroom. Sorry, you meant to say you left them in the car. Speaking of which, where did you leave the car?

The sad truth is, you do not currently recall precisely where you left your (very bad word) glasses. Now let's see what happens after I tell you a scientifically-proven side-splitting joke (You will find this joke funnier if you imagine it being read in an angry German accent. Trust me.).

Lab-tested Joke: "Two peanuts were walking down the street ("strasse" for those of you reading in German) and one of them (pause for dramatic effect) was a salted!"

In any case, today's point is that, according to scientists at Loma Linda University in Southern California, humour and laughter can improve short-term memory in older adults.

They know this because in a recent study they had 20 older adults watch a comedic video (most likely my friend Kevin's golf swing) for 20 minutes, while a control group just sat calmly with no video. Later, the subjects performed memory tests and had saliva samples analyzed for stress hormones.

The results? No one in either group was able to remember their ATM number or where they parked their car. OK, sorry, I made that last bit up. What really happened was those who laughed at the funny video scored better on short-term memory tests, and their saliva contained less of the stress hormone cortisol, which is an enemy of memory.

According to the researchers, the more you laugh and the less stress you have, the better your memory. It has something to do with laughter increasing endorphins and sending dopamine to the brain, providing a sense of pleasure and making you function more effectively.

Is that great scientific news, or what?

Which, sadly, brings us to the bad news, for which we have my colleague Kevin to blame, so you should direct any angry emails to him at kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca.

The depressing news is the Japanese branch of Haagen-Dazs is poised to introduce a line of vegetable-flavoured ice creams. For the record, vegetables are those things you find in salads, which probably would improve your memory if you remembered to eat one.

A translated press release from Haagen-Dazs says two new veggie flavours -- "Tomato Cherry" and "Orange Carrot" -- will be making their debut in Japan next month.

From what I read and partially understood, Japan's new veggie-intensive ice creams -- no word on when they may sprout on store shelves in North America -- contain roughly half the fat of a normal pint of Haagen-Dazs, meaning they are essentially health foods for guys whose diets consist of cheeseburgers and fries.

Not everyone is over the moon, however. Cranky food blogger C.A. Pinkham, for example, offered this rant: "The existence of this product poses a philosophical conundrum for me: In a universe in which I have but a finite amount of time before I crumble to ash, how is it possible for me to scream the number of screams necessary to convey my feelings regarding vegetable-flavoured ice cream?"

Maybe it's because my brain is being flooded with endorphins right now, but I personally think the notion of veggie ice cream is hilarious, and that's exactly what I'm going to tell my colleague Kevin -- just as soon as I remember his phone number.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2014 A2

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