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Why Petting A Dog Is Helpful In Weight Loss [research]

A research study done by University of Missouri-Columbia suggests that petting a dog can be more fulfilling than chocolate – and helpful in weight loss, too!

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Long story short…

A few minutes of petting a dog prompts a release of “feel good” hormones – like serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. Plus a good session of dog-petting also lowers levels of cortisol – which is not only a primary stress hormone – it’s also the adrenal chemical responsible for regulating appetite and cravings for carbs and sugar. Meaning – petting a dog can make you feel as happy as eating chocolate – while also helping you to resist eating chocolate. It’s a major win/win!

Long story longer…

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In the Missouri study mentioned above, 50 dog owners and 50 non-dog owners over the age of 18 were separated into three groups. One group sat with their own dog. Another group sat with a friendly but unfamiliar dog. And the last group sat with a robotic dog. (Note: The robotic dog was included because they’re being studied as a possible solution for the elderly who can’t look after a live animal.)

Each of these three groups were told to calmly stroke or pet their dog. Researchers then checked blood samples of both the doggies and their humans at the beginning of each session and then monitored their blood pressure every five minutes.

The results: 

The dogs’ blood pressure dropped as soon as they were petted. The humans’ blood pressure dropped by 10% about 15 – 30 minutes after they began petting their dog.

Next up, blood was again drawn – and serotonin levels were check!

The results: 

Serotonin levels increased when people were petting their own dog –  but not when people

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were petting an unfamiliar animal. And serotonin levels actually decreased when petting the robotic dog.

Dr. Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, says the serotonin changes reveal the “mechanism” of how pets influence our health. “It shows that there is a physiological mechanism [to relaxing with a pet], that it really is comparable to other things we know cause relaxation –  like eating chocolate,” says Beck.

Plus,  having a dog can help you to lose weight for yet another reason – other than regulating adrenal chemical. When you have a dog, you have to walk the dog a few times a day! This is a terrific forced exercise strategy – one which has also been backed up by a few separate research studies – each reporting how walking a dog successfully contributed to many people’s weight loss goals. (Note: Unless of course you’re walking your dog to go get an ice cream cone!)

Bonus Pro-Doggie Research Study Info : In the video below, I offer some interesting research on the perks of a poochie on lowering stress. Plus, numerous studies prove that hanging out with dogs can help lower blood pressure, relieve depression/stress, assist old people to feel less lonely, and even help children to overcome allergies.


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Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.

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