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In a recent study, healthy college students were divided up into two control groups. One group was asked to write an affectionate letter to friends, loved ones, family or romantic partners. The second group wrote to the same groups of people, but wrote about innocuous topics like weather and sports.
Each group wrote 3 letters for 20 minutes each spread out over a 5-week period. Total cholesterol was assessed at the beginning and end of the two trials. Intriguingly, the group that wrote an affectionate letter or love letter saw a significant reduction in total cholesterol. The group that wrote a non-affectionate letter saw an increase in cholesterol levels during the same period. (1)
Note: We can only assume that, in these studies, the small, less health-promoting cholesterol particles were significantly decreased.
In another study, researchers found that blood pressure would lower further when they spent time with a romantic partner compared to just being with a friend. (2) Scientists suggest that when you are with a romantic partner you are more comfortable (and less stressed), which can naturally result in lower blood pressure.
The most therapeutic, however, seems to be the stress reduction and health benefits of falling in love. A new love seems to be a pretty potent medicine. (3)
Perhaps the best explanation for these findings, on one level, is the production of the love chemical, oxytocin. This is the giving, loving, and bonding hormone that feeds us in a unique way. (4) Unlike the “I got to have it now” hormone, dopamine, which requires more intense stimulation to deliver the same high with each subsequent surge, oxytocin becomes easier to produce. The more you give, the more you get!
Consider taking some time to write, call, and spend time with a loved one (not necessarily a romantic partner – friends, parents, children and pets are all relationship forms that can offer an abundance of oxytocin-rich bonding experience) and make sure you express your deep feelings or how you admire, love and appreciate them. This is good practice for the ticker and, according to a growing body of science, may be just what the good microbes (who fix just about everything) require to re-populate our guts after a century of annihilating them.
Stay tuned for the next 3 articles in this series on cholesterol, where we will discuss the flawed science behind the “Lipid Hypothesis,” what really matters when it comes to cholesterol, and a new way to read your blood test results!
Part 2 of this series on cholesterol: Saturated Fats and Cholesterol Exonerated
Part 3 of this series on cholesterol: Cholesterol: Size Matters
Part 4 of this series on cholesterol: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cholesterol!” A Better Way to Read your Results