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Meditation combats reduction in genetic lifespan caused by stress

The more stress you are subjected to, the faster you age. Stress causes the telomeres (pieces in your DNA) to shorten faster than normal. The relationship between telomeres and aging is explained here. Fortunately it's possible to reverse stress-related reduction in life expectancy. If you do a meditative yoga practice for 12 minutes every day, you activate an enzyme that makes the telomeres in your DNA longer again.

The researchers did an 8-week long experiment with 39 people aged 45-91, all of whom cared for a family member with dementia. The participants had a heavy workload and as a result of the psychological stress they showed signs of depression. The researchers divided the participants into two groups.

One group did relaxation exercises every day for 12 minutes [Relaxation] from a CD.

The other group did 12 minutes daily of Kirtan Kriya, a basic form of meditation in Kundalini yoga [Meditation]. The table below gives a description of how to do the meditation. The text comes from the website. [ January 09, 2017]

Meditation combats reduction in genetic lifespan caused by stress

Before and after the experiment the researchers measured the concentration of the enzyme telomerase in the participants' blood. Telomerase makes telomeres longer, which possibly increases lifespan. The researchers also did psychological tests with the participants to assess their mental health.


The telomerase enzyme became more active in the meditation group. This did not happen in the group that did relaxation exercises.

Meditation combats reduction in genetic lifespan caused by stress

Meditation combats reduction in genetic lifespan caused by stress

The Hamilton scores went down in both groups. The lower the Hamilton score, the less severe a depression is. The Mental Component Summary scores [MCS] of SF-36 increased in both groups. These are an indication that the participants felt better. All these positive results were slightly stronger in the meditation group.

"Cellular mechanisms of mind-body interventions are only beginning to be understood," the researchers wrote. "The relationship between telomere-dependent senescence, telomerase and stress remains a subject of debate. It has been observed that psychological stress can boost inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as accelerate telomere attrition. Chronic stress has been linked to telomere length and telomerase activity."

"Shortened telomere length and reduced telomerase predict a host of health risks and diseases, and new findings suggest they may be regulated in part by psychological stress, stress appraisals, and well-being."

"Jacobs et al reported increased telomerase activity in 30 meditation retreat participants with a six-hour daily meditation practice for three months compared to 30 wait-list control participants matched by age, sex, and prior meditation experience." [Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Jun;36(5):664-81.]

"Our study is the first to indicate changes in telomerase levels in distressed caregivers with Kirtan Kriya meditation."

"In comparison to previous reports, our pilot results are striking given a brief daily Kirtan Kriya practice can lead to improvement in mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity over the course of eight weeks. Observed close relationships between changes in telomerase levels, levels of depression, and anxiety and distress are novel and deserve further examination."

"Controlling for relaxation by the virtue of having the relaxation control group, gave us an opportunity to separate the effects of relaxation on outcomes from other meditation-specific effects. Some of the observed effects could be due to the relaxation response in both groups (e.g., improved depression), while the effects on cognitive and mental functioning and telomerase activity were specific to the Kirtan Kriya."

"Because Kirtan Kriya had several elements of using chanting, mudras and visualization, there was a 'brain fitness' effect in addition to stress-reduction that contributed to the overall effect of the meditation. We will confirm this potential mechanism in the follow up neuroimaging study of Kirtan Kriya."

"Our approach may offer valuable and cost-effective prevention strategy of treating depressive symptoms in a high-risk population for major depression. Cultural acceptability of a particular mind-body technique to an individual is a limitation among older participants, and has to be done with cultural sensitivity."

"Our results will need to be replicated in a larger sample to document the effects of mind-body approaches on stress reduction and depression prevention in this difficult-to-manage population."

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013 Jan;28(1):57-65.

Daily half hour of meditation protects against burnout 09.09.2014
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