Posted 06.19.2019 | by AMRA
Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences at the end of chromosomes that protect coding regions of DNA from deteriorating during cell division. Telomeres shorten not only as we age, but also when we are under stress. Shorter telomeres are linked to an increased incidence of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, and to an increased risk of death. The enzyme telomerase lengthens telomeres through the addition of nucleotide repeats.
Preliminary studies show that meditation can have a protective effect on telomeres, most likely by increasing telomerase activity. Specific types of meditation may be more effective than others in maintaining telomere length. Nuygen et al. [Psychoneuroimmunology] tested whether specific types of meditation practice have a protective effect on telomere length.
The researchers randomly assigned recruits to mindfulness meditation (MM), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), or a wait-list control. Their final sample (excluding dropouts and participants with inadequate DNA samples) consisted of 142 meditation-naive recruits (average age = 49; 70% female; 81% Caucasian). MM and LKM participants attended six, hour-long, group meditation training workshops held once per week. They also received 20-minute audio-recorded guided meditations to assist in daily home practice.
MM training focused on developing open, non-judgmental attention towards breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings, as well as choiceless awareness. LKM training focused on cultivating warm feelings towards oneself, a loved one, an acquaintance, a difficult person, and all beings.
Two weeks prior to the workshops (and three weeks after) participants donated a blood sample that was used to assess white blood cell (monocyte and lymphocyte) telomere length. Participant moods and extent of meditation practice were assessed by daily diary.
All groups showed a decrease in telomere length over the course […]