Kissing is a uniquely human trait that’s said to have emerged as a way to pass germs from one person to another, ultimately building immunity. But that’s rather unromantic, isn’t it? While it seems plausible that kissing would have an underlying biological function, there’s also no denying its role in bonding… or overall health.
Kissing not only feels good, it’s good for you. It relieves stress and releases epinephrine into your blood, making it pump faster, which may result in a reduction of LDL cholesterol. Kissing may even be a novel way to receive certain hormones, like testosterone:
“'Mucous membranes inside the mouth are permeable to hormones such as testosterone. Through open-mouth kissing, men introduced testosterone into a woman’s mouth,' which 'is absorbed through the mucous membranes… and increases arousal and the likelihood that she will engage in reproductive behavior.”
Interestingly, Andréa Demirjian, author of Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about One of Life's Sweetest Pleasures, believes “a kiss a day really can keep the doctor away.” And she recently shared eight reasons why with CNN:
1. Reduce Your Blood Pressure
Kissing helps to dilate your blood vessels, which may help lower your blood pressure.
2. Relieve Cramps and Headaches
The blood-vessel-dilation effect described above also helps to relieve pain, particularly from headache or menstrual cramps.
3. Fight Cavities
When you kiss, saliva production increases in your mouth, and this helps to wash away plaque on your teeth that may lead to cavities. That said, cavity-causing bacteria can also be transmitted via a kiss, especially if the person you’re kissing has poor oral habits. It’s even been shown that cavity-causing bacteria can spread from a mother’s kiss to her baby.
4. Release Your Happy Hormones
Kissing prompts your brain to release a happy elixir of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. This isn’t only important for your happiness, it also may also help to strengthen your relationship. As MSN reported:
“’This [oxytocin] is the hormone of love, and the better the oxytocin levels, the more capacity for love,’ explains psychotherapist Arthur Janov, Ph.D., author of ‘The Biology of Love’ and the director of the Primal Center in Santa Monica, Calif. ‘We have found that those who cannot commit in a love relationship are low in oxytocin.’”
Interestingly, kissing activates the same areas in your brain linked to reward and addiction. According to the researchers who revealed this finding:
“Kissing may have evolved as a way to stimulate brain systems associated with sex drive, romantic love, and attachment so that humans are triggered to seek a variety of potential mates, then focus attention on one for mating, and finally be able to tolerate that mate long enough to raise a child as a team.”
Your lips are also densely packed with sensory neurons, which are stimulated by the touch of another’s lips. This prompts the release of sebum, which is thought to play a role in bonding.
5. Burn Calories
It’s not going to replace your workout session… but a vigorous kiss may burn 8-16 calories. Not too shabby for a kiss.
6. Boost Your Self-Esteem
One study found that men who received a passionate kiss before they left for work earned more money. This suggests the kiss (and perhaps the happy home-life it suggests) makes people happier, boosts self-esteem and, ultimately, more productive at work.
7. Tone Your Facial Muscles
A vigorous kiss helps you shape up your neck and jawline by working out a number of facial muscles.
8. Check Out Your Partner’s Compatibility
A kiss can be a powerful measure of your initial attraction to a person, so much so that the majority of men and women surveyed reporting that a first kiss could be a turn-off. Women, in particular, place more importance on kissing as a “mate assessment device” and as a means of “initiating, maintaining, and monitoring the current status of their relationship with a long-term partner.”
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