More Hard Evidence Meditation Overrides Genetics
By: Shadoe McKee
I was so excited to find an article today on newscientist.com, written by Andy Coghlan. In it he references a new study that shows for the first time that gene activity changes with regular meditation practice. At Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Herbert Benson and his colleagues devised a strategy to prove meditation and chanting can indeed have an effect on specific genes.
In this study, they took 26 volunteers who have not regularly meditated and analyzed their gene profiles. Then, they taught them a chanting and meditation routine that lasted 10-20 minutes. Next, they had these 26 volunteers perform this practice every day for 8 weeks and analyzed their gene profile again. Guess what they found?
Clusters of very important and beneficial genes had become more active and clusters of genes deemed to be harmful became less active. The beneficial genes they included in the study that showed increased activity had three effects. First, they improve the efficiency of mitochondria, basically the “battery pack” inside your cells. Second, they boosted insulin production, which we all know controls our levels of blood sugar, which is a big societal and medical problem these days. And third, they prevented the depletion of telomeres, which are little end-caps on our strands of DNA that keep them strong and stable. Telomeres are believed to be what controls how rapidly a cell ages and degrades, and may be what controls biological aging. The harmful genes that became less active were those that trigger chronic inflammation (leading to almost all disease) and those that trigger certain cancers.
What excited me even more about this study is the researchers took blood immediately before and after a daily meditation and chanting routine and used that blood to prove the gene changes happened within MINUTES! These tests were also conducted on 26 volunteers who were considered established meditators for at least three years, and the results were as you imagined. Their practices resulted in long-term alteration of their genetic code.
Benson and his colleagues that conducted this study are going to build on this study by investigating how gene profiles are altered and whether meditation can be proven to improve the symptoms of high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease, and bone marrow cancer. I’m curious why he would choose these three diseases, which of course will make me dig deeper. I’ll let you know if I discover anything pertinent. Those of us who believe in the powers of meditation already feel the positive effects of it in our minds and bodies and have already observed the ripple effect through our lives. I enjoy the processes of science, and I am thrilled to find studies like this one that further reinforces my beliefs and share it with others. I’m sure we all enjoy that from time to time.