Posted: Wed May 08, 2013 12:09 pm Post subject: Meditation Can Alter Gene Expression
A study of some 50 adults suggests that meditation and other practices evoking the “relaxation response” can counteract the “harmful genomic effects of stress.” That is, doing yoga, praying and meditating may actually have an “observable, biological effect” on us by altering gene expression.
Meditation isn’t just about taking it easy. It’s good for you all the way down to the cellular level.
In the study, 26 adults who had no previous experience with meditation were trained by researchers (from Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, US) in such practices as deep breathing, repeating mantras and training their minds to ignore intrusive thoughts.
These techniques are ways to stoke the relaxation response, a physiological as well as a psychological state that is precisely the opposite of what happens when we’re stressed and have a “flight or fight response,” in which the body steps up the activity of the nervous system dramatically.
For eight weeks, the researchers tested the participants’ blood just before and then 15 minutes after they listened to a 20-minute health education CD. After the training, the researchers did the blood tests before and after the participants listened to a CD that guided them in their meditation. They also tested 25 other people who had long-term experience with meditation.
Analysis of the participants’ blood samples showed that, after meditation, all experienced changes in gene expression that were “the exact opposite” of what happens in the flight or fight response.” Specifically, genes “associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance were turned on,” but those involved in inflammation were turned off. Long-term practitioners of meditation showed all these effects to a greater degree.
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