Posted from archive: 03.11.2013 | by AMRA


Gallegos et al. [Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine] performed new, more detailed analyses of the results of a prior, unpublished, study. That study of 100 older MBSR participants (ages 65+) showed an unexpected decrease in antibody response to an immune challenge when compared with a wait list control. Conversely, previous studies with younger adults showed that MBSR had improved their immunity.

The current study explored the relative contributions of separate MBSR components (yoga, sitting meditation, informal meditation, body scan, and perceived social support) to a variety of biological and psychological measures, including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which is associated with increased longevity, an interleukin (IL-6) associated with inflammation, two antibodies (IgM and IgG) associated with immune response, and self-ratings of positive affect. The researchers provoked an immune response by injecting participants with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), a carrier protein used in vaccinations.

Yoga and sitting meditation both increased IGF-1 levels, while perceived social support lowered IL-6 levels. Yoga had a significant beneficial effect on positive affect. The body scan and yoga both contributed to the decreased antibody response to KLH immunization. Can MBSR impair immunity in older adults? More research is needed for it is possible, for example, that the observed antibody decrease was offset by increases in macrophages and lymphocytes.


Gallegos, A. M., Hoerger, M., Talbot, N. L., Krasner, M. S., Knight, J. M., Moynihan, J. A., & Duberstein, P. R. (2013). Toward identifying the effects of the specific components of mindfulness-based stress reduction on biologic and emotional outcomes among older adults. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(10), 787-92. [PMID: 23383976]

[Link to abstract]