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.
A telomere is a region of repetitive nucleotides consisting of DNA and RNA at the end of a chromosome that protects the chromosome from deterioration.
Shorter telomeres are known to determine cell longevity and shorter telomeres lead to a shorter lifespan. Telomeres can therefore give us information on how fast we age.
Several factors can affect the length of the telomeres. We will look at one of these factors here.
Psychological stress, both perceived stress and chronicity of stress. is significantly associated with higher oxidative stress, lower telomerase activity, and shorter telomere length (Epel ES, et.al., 2004).
In a study which included 2911 men and women aged 30-64, a significant association was found between work exhaustion and telomere length related to the acceleration of the rate of biological aging (Ahola K, et.al., 2012).
In this study the researchers examined relative telomere length in a group of individuals experienced in Loving-Kindness Meditation, a practice derived from the Buddhist tradition (Hoge EA, et.al., 2013).
The meditation practitioners had longer telomeres than the group not practicing meditation indicating an effect on longevity.
When family dementia caregivers were practicing Kirtan Kriya meditation or listening to relaxation music for 12 min per day for 8 weeks, this was the results.
The meditation group showed 43% improvement in telomerase activity compared with 3.7% in the relaxation group (Lavretsky H, et. al., 2013).
The meditation group also improved mental and cognitive functioning and had lower levels of depressive symptoms.
This is one of the things you can do to keep your telomeres longer and counteract stress. Starting to meditate regularly is well worth the time you spend on the meditating,
The way you breathe has a strong effect on how you feel and function. Research has shown that the amount of times you breath and also how you breathe is important.
The following study included 47healthy college students which implemented different breathing patterns (Lin IM, et., al., 2014). Anxiety and relaxation levels were measured as well as heart rate variability (HRV).
The reason HRV was measured is because research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening of depression or anxiety. A low HRV has even been associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease. People who have a high HRV may have greater cardiovascular fitness and be more resilient to stress.
In this study the researchers showed that breathing at a rate of 5.5 breaths per minute and with an equal time used to breathe in and out resulted in a higher HRV and an increased feeling of relaxation. The other breathing patterns were not as effective.
A breathing frequency of 6 breaths per minute has been the frequency found to be most effective in most of the studies.
Using your diaphragm when breathing is also important. Implementing that with slow breathing increased sustained attention and lowered cortisol levels–cortisol is a stress hormone– in another study (Ma X, et.al., 2017).
When you use your diaphragm in breathing, you will see your abdomen raising when you breathe in.
This type of breathing has even shown to improve sleep when practiced before bed time (Tsai HJ,et.al., 2015).
One of the impressive health benefits of flax seeds is the ability to decrease blood pressure (Rodriguez-Leyva D, et.al., 2013).
In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, 30 g of flax seeds daily for 6 months reduced the systolic blood pressure of 10 mm Hg and the diastolic blood pressure with 7 mm Hg.
This is as good as some blood pressure medications, and instead of side-effects, you get even additional benefits.
13 g of flax seeds daily has shown to decrease blood glucose and insulin and improve insulin sensitivity in obese individuals with pre-diabetes (Hutchins AM, et.al., 2013).
Flax seeds can also lower cholesterol.
In just 7 days a drink made of flax seeds lowered total cholesterol by 12% and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) 15% (Kristensen M, et.al., 2012).
Even if many people are not aware of these health benefits, it’s been known for a long time that flax seeds can reduce total cholesterol, LDL and decrease the blood glucose after a meal (Cunnane SC, et.al., 1993).
It is very important to keep the blood glucose in a good range even after a meal, it is not enough to only have good fasting blood glucose.
I recommend grinding 2 tablespoons of flax seeds in a coffee grinder and put them in a glass with water, stir it and drink it thick. You can of course also sprinkle it on food, like a salad if you prefer.
You want to be happy and not feel depressed, and while we don’t understand all the reasons for depression, new research suggests that low-grade systemic inflammation may be involved(Wium-Andersen MK, et al. 2013).
This is exactly what the reviewed research investigated by measuring plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker. 73,131 participants both men and women between the age of 20 and 100 years were included.
The conclusion of the study was that elevated levels of CRP are associated with increased risk for psychological distress and depression in the general population.
Maybe this looks a little bit strange to you, but the food you eat could actually be contributing to this type of inflammation, and for that reason also affect your mood.