illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
No surprise really: we all know that smoking or alcohol doesn't help, pre-disposition or not, and healthy lifestyle does help, pre-disposition or not… Why would meditative practices we embody be excluded from interacting with genes, simply because they're labelled as related to the 'mind'?
by Ward Plunet:
Gene expression altered during relaxation response practice (meditation)
A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) finds that elicitation of the relaxation response – a physiologic state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and prayer – produces immediate changes in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.
The study enrolled a group of 26 healthy adults with no experience in relaxation response practice, who then completed an 8-week relaxation response training course. Prior to starting their training, the participants went through what was essentially a control group session – blood samples were taken before and immediately after they listened to a 20-minute health education CD and again 15 minutes later. After completing the training course, a similar set of blood tests was taken before and after participants listened to a 20-minute CD used to elicit the relaxation response as part of daily practice.
The results revealed significant changes in the expression of several important groups of genes between the novice samples and those from both the short- and long-term sets, with even more pronounced changes in the long-term practitioners. A systems biology analysis of known interactions among the proteins produced by the affected genes revealed that pathways involved with energy metabolism, particularly the function of mitochondria, were upregulated during the relaxation response. Pathways controlled by activation of a protein called NF-κB – known to have a prominent role in inflammation, stress, trauma and cancer – were suppressed after relaxation response elicitation. The expression of genes involved in insulin pathways was also significantly altered.