Jacob Schor has, in recent years, presented in lectures and publications about the research of Hajime Kimata, an allergist who conducted randomized trials showing that humor has beneficial effects on allergic diseases, including atopic dermatitis.1 Kimata has also conducted some provocative research on the effect of kissing and sexual intercourse on atopic dermatitis (AD), as well as the effect of humor on testosterone and erectile dysfunction.
Kimata published a study in 2003 where he examined a group of 60 Japanese subjects with either allergic rhinitis or AD and compared them to a control group of 30 non-atopic Japanese subjects.2 All subjects claimed to not kiss on a regular basis. Kimata then provided them with a private room with soft music in which they were instructed to kiss for 30 minutes with their significant other. The atopic subjects showed a reduction in skin wheal responses to cedar pollen and dust mites, as well as decreased levels of plasma neurotrophins. No change in the plasma levels were noted in the controls after kissing.
Kimata took his research to the next level in 2004 and tested the effect of sexual intercourse in allergic patients. The results were similar to kissing with regard to skin wheal response to the allergens and histamine.3 These findings are not surprising given the wide range of better psychological and physiological health indices associated with sexual intercourse.4
In 2006, Kimata published another paper on kissing by lovers or spouses, allergic rhinitis (n=24) and AD (n=24), showing that kissing selectively decreased allergen-specific IgE production with skewing cytokine pattern toward Th1 type.5
In 2007, Kimata reported on his study of 36 elderly men with atopic dermatitis and 36 elderly healthy men, mean age 70 years, and found that salivary testosterone levels were decreased while trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) values were increased in the men with AD compared to those in healthy men. Viewing “The Best Bits of Mr. Bean” slightly, but significantly (P<0.05), elevated salivary testosterone levels and reduced TEWL values in healthy men, while viewing a control non-humorous weather information film had no effect. Similarly, viewing the humorous film markedly elevated salivary testosterone levels and reduced TEWL values in the men with AD, while viewing the control non-humorous film failed to do so. These results suggested that viewing humorous films might be useful in raising testosterone levels and decreasing TEWL in elderly men with or without AD.6
In the following year, Kimata studied 36 men with erectile dysfunction and their healthy wives. This time the intervention was viewing humorous films on 3 consecutive days (Days 1-3). By day 7, 4 days after finishing the movies, the effects had worn off. After 2 weeks, they viewed control non-humorous weather information films on 3 consecutive days (Days 1-3). Viewing humorous films significantly improved the erectile function, orgasmic function, sexual desire, intercourse satisfaction, and overall satisfaction and was associated with increased serum testosterone levels and decreased serum estradiol levels.7
In 2015, Kimata was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for his research on kissing, sexual intercourse and AD.8,9 He shared the award with a team of researchers from Slovakia who had also conducted experiments on the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing and other intimate interpersonal activities.10
The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that make people LAUGH, and then THINK. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology. Every September, in a gala ceremony in Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, 1,100 splendidly eccentric spectators watch the new winners step forward to accept their prizes. These are physically handed out by genuinely bemused genuine Nobel Laureates. Thousands more, around the world, watch the live online broadcast.
To view this years’ awards on September 12, 2019, go to https://www.improbable.com/ig-about/2019-ceremony/#webcast at 5:35 pm EDT.
"The Ig Nobel awards are arguably the highlight of the scientific calendar." —Nature
Dr. Traub will be presenting more on the topic of humor, kissing, and sex in atopic dermatitis at the Integrative Dermatology Symposium in San Diego on October 3, 2019.