What makes the entire world melt away, gives you butterflies in your stomach, and makes your heart giddy with desire? A kiss, of course!
“I love kissing my boyfriend,” says Krysten Ritter, tv actress and model. “It connects you.” Kissing is what bonds people together — or if you’re a bad kisser, it’s what makes people run in the other direction. “During a lip-lock, the brain releases dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of desire and bonding,” says Dr. Yael Varnado, founder of Get Checked 4 Life, a nonprofit organization that provides access to health services for at-risk communities.
But there’s more to kissing than just a quick thrill and a little bonding with someone special. Kissing provides a range of health benefits, from increased metabolism to a longer life. “The chemicals released from a kiss heal not only physical but also emotional ‘boo-boos,’ and can keep you healthy and build up your immunity,” explains Dr. Varnado. It just goes to show you that the joys of kissing are more far-reaching than you think. Below, we list the biggest benefits from sharing a smooch with your sweetheart.
Benefit #1: Your pearly whites stay cleaner
Though it’s certainly no replacement for brushing your teeth, kissing can break down oral plaque and prevent cavities by stimulating the creation of saliva, which helps wash bacteria away from the tooth’s surface. “Kissing is nature’s cleansing process,” says Heidi Hausauer, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. “Saliva washes out the mouth and helps remove the cavity-causing food particles that accumulate after meals.” The minerals in saliva also help rebuild tooth enamel, thereby preventing decay. So not only does kissing give you cleaner teeth, but you could actually end up saving money on your dental bills, too.
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Benefit #2: Keep a younger-looking face as you age
Speaking of saving money, you can say goodbye to Botox and acid peels (or at least cut down on those pricey anti-aging treatments). Ever notice how happy, loving couples still retain an air of youth, even as they grow older? The answer could be down to frequent kissing. Sex therapist and author Dr. Ava Cadell notes that “kissing can give you a facelift. We use over 30 facial muscles while kissing, which helps to keep muscles smooth and tight and prevents your cheeks from sagging.” Laurel House, author of QuickieChick’s Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion and Finance — on a Less-Than-Fabulous Budget, also likens kissing to a toning session for your face: “Like working out the muscles in your abs, working out your facial muscles can help tone and tighten them, minimizing the visible signs of aging.”
Benefit #3: A revved-up metabolism
In addition to providing a facial workout, kissing can also help you lose inches from your waistline, too. As you lean in for the kiss, you may feel as though your heart’s racing. It’s not just your imagination; it is beating faster. “As the heart beats faster, it releases adrenaline and other neurotransmitters in the blood. The boost in adrenaline increases your metabolism and helps burn extra calories,” says Dr. Varnado.
During a really passionate kiss, you can burn anywhere from two to five calories per minute, which is double your normal resting rate. Dr. Cadell put this to the test on the TV show, The Doctors. By hooking a kissing couple up to a heart monitor and calorie counters, Dr. Cadell found that over the course of an hour, they burned a combined total of 575 calories — or 287.5 calories each.
While you certainly can’t rely on kissing to help you lose a significant amount of weight, it might give your metabolism an extra boost and help shed a pound or two.
Benefit #4: Your immune system gets a healthy boost
Just like working out, kissing can boost your immunity. So if you’re a germophobe, listen up: “Swapping spit means swapping germs, and that is nature’s natural form of vaccination,” explains Dr. Varnado. “Being exposed to others’ germs causes your body makes antibodies against those germs, which can in turn lead to immunity and prevent illness.” This all holds true as long as you’re not kissing anyone with any diseases or cold sores present in his or her mouth, so make sure the object of your affection isn’t coming down with the flu before you pucker up.
Benefit #5: Improved mood and decreased stress levels overall
Ever notice how you feel after a good make-out session? It’s like you’re floating on cloud nine, all your cares melt away, and you feel like you could do anything. That’s because kissing releases nature’s antidepressant, oxytocin. Dr. Joshua Gizersky, founder and medical director of Vitality Logix Internal Medicine, says that “a passionate kiss will spike oxytocin, leading to better sex and orgasm.”
But kissing doesn’t just increase the production of feel-good chemicals in our bodies — it lowers our cortisol and cholesterol levels, too. “A study of cohabiting and married couples showed that an increased frequency of kissing decreases stress and cholesterol levels. Stress is a well-known risk factor for heart disease,” says Dr. Varnado. And a healthy heart means a longer life!
Benefit #6: A natural source of pain relief
Last but not least, kissing provides a natural form of pain relief. Before reaching for an aspirin the next time you’ve got a headache, grab your honey and lay on a big smooch instead. Dr. Varnado notes that “kissing releases natural chemicals in the body called endorphins, which can be more powerful than morphine to relieve pain” — without the all the negative side effects of using a narcotic, of course.
It seems that you already have all the tools and chemicals necessary to improve your health, feel better, and manage stress… right inside your own body. And all you need to do is plant a few kisses first!
Rachel Khona is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Cosmopolitan and Inked and online at AskMen.com and YourTango.com.