Love Is All You Need

4 June 2008

According to the great Chinese physician Sun Simiao (581 to 682 CE) people have illness "because they do not have love in their life and are not cherished". Now Dr. Dean Ornish (author of Love and Survival), a surgeon who gave up traditional approaches to heart disease in favor of a holistic programme of low-fat diet, exercise and support groups states "those who feel lonely, depressed or isolated are three to five times more likely to suffer premature death or disease. I don't know of anything else across medicine that has such a broad and powerful impact."

A host of studies have suggested a strong connection between companionship and health. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh exposed healthy adults to viruses and found that those with many kinds of social relationships were four times less likely to catch colds. "I see it all the time," says Dr. Jeffrey Milliken, chief of the division of cardiothoracic surgery at UCI Medical Center. "People in relationships and people in supportive environments live longer and are less disease-prone." A study in Alameda County showed that men and women who did not have close contact with friends, relatives, spouses and church and social groups were 1.9 to 3.1 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who did. Social ties were a more powerful predictor of health and longevity than age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, health status, smoking, drinking, overeating or lack of exercise.

Happiness has anecdotally been linked as an aid to fighting cancer, but researchers at the University of Iowa may have found the mechanism by which this may work. The psychological state of a person may influence vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF helps new blood vessels to form around tumours, which allows tumours to grow and spread more easily. The higher a patient's level of social well-being, the researchers found, the lower her VEGF level. More support from friends and neighbours, as well as less distance from friends, were both linked to lower levels of the growth factor, according to the report in the August 15th issue of Cancer. While women who reported more feelings of helplessness or worthlessness had higher VEGF levels, depression in general was not related to VEGF levels. (Cancer 2002;95:808-815).

: Diet & Lifestyle

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