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London - A hug or two a day may be more effective than an apple for keeping doctors at arm’s length.
Regular embraces can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress and fatigue, boost the immune system, fight infections and ease depression, according to a new study.
Just ten seconds of hugging can lower blood pressure and after this time elapses, levels of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin increase, while the amounts of stress chemicals, including cortisol, drop.
‘The positive emotional experience of hugging gives rise to biochemical and physiological reactions,’ says psychologist Dr Jan Astrom, who led the study report published in the journal Comprehensive Psychology.
A second study found that after ten seconds of hugging, levels of various hormones in men and women aged 20 to 49 changed.
Oxytocin is secreted by the body during childbirth and in breastfeeding, where it stimulates release of milk. Until recently, its effects were thought to be confined to just that.
But research is increasingly showing that it seems to have many more effects, from improving social skills to combating stress and encouraging trust.
The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped pressure centres called Pacinian corpuscles that can sense touch and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve winds its way through the body and is connected to a number of organs, including the heart.
It is also connected to oxytocin receptors.
One theory is that stimulation of the vagus triggers an increase in oxytocin, which in turn leads to the cascade of health benefits. - Mail On Sunday