While we can’t change our genes yet, we can however improve the expression of our genes. There are several factors that affect how we express our genes.
One of the more important factors is stress.
In this study, researchers tested several functions after a practice session of healthy individuals who had practiced meditation for many years and participants that had only practiced for eight weeks, comparing it with participants who listen to health education (Bhasin MK, et.al., 2013).
The practice of meditation enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.
The response was stronger in those who had been practicing meditation for a long time.
In another study the researchers found that practitioners of “Loving-Kindness Meditation” had significantly longer telomere length than controls when Genomic DNA was tested (Hoge EA, et.al., 2013).
Telomeres relates to how fast we age.
Shorter telomeres have been linked to chronic stress and shorter telomere length can serve as a marker of accelerated aging.
When telomerase was measured in participants practising meditation at a retreat, an increase in telomerase activity was found compared to the control group (Jacobs TL, et.al., 2011).
This was also very interesting. Increases in “Purpose in Life” directly mediated the telomerase group difference, whereas increases in Mindfulness did not.
So the research shows that not all meditation produces the same results.
Bhasin MK, Dusek JA, Chang BH, Joseph MG, Denninger JW, Fricchione GL, Benson H, Libermann TA.Relaxation response induces temporal transcriptome changes in energy metabolism, insulin secretion and inflammatory pathways. PLoS One. 2013 May 1;8(5):e62817.
Jacobs TL, Epel ES, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Wolkowitz OM, Bridwell DA, Zanesco AP, Aichele SR, Sahdra BK, MacLean KA, King BG, Shaver PR, Rosenberg EL, Ferrer E, Wallace BA, Saron CD. Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Jun;36(5):664-81.
Hoge EA, Chen MM, Orr E, Metcalf CA, Fischer LE, Pollack MH, De Vivo I, Simon NM.Loving-Kindness Meditation practice associated with longer telomeres in women. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Aug;32:159-63.
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