Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” B. Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/, Kurth and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the neuroprotective effects of meditation in the elderly. They discuss the ideas that the aging based deterioration of the brain is due to a number of processes, including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity and that meditation appears to effect all of these processes.

 

There has accumulated evidence that meditation protects against age related decline at the molecular genetic level. As we age the length of a DNA structures called the telomeres progressively shorten. It is thought that the shorter the telomeres get the more difficult it becomes for cells to replicate properly and thus leads to decline. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically, has been shown to reduce the shortening of the telomeres with aging. Kurth and colleagues speculate that this is one mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from age related decline.

 

As we age the natural inflammatory response that normally occurs to protect against infection begins to increase in general and lose its specificity to fighting particular diseases, pathogens, and injuries. It becomes more widespread damaging normal tissues. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses. It seems reasonable that this is another mechanism by which meditation protects the body from age related decline.

 

Stress is present throughout life. But if it is too intense or prolonged the biological responses to stress begin to damage the body. These stress induced changes are similar to age related deterioration. Stress effects may accumulate over time. Hence, the older we get the greater the total stress induced damage. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. This is hypothesized to be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from deterioration with aging.

 

Neuroplasticity is a change in the size and connectivity of brain structures as they are exercised over a prolonged period of time. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain, increasing the size and connectivity of brain structures. This process would tend to counteract brain degeneration with aging and may be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain during aging.

 

Hence there has accumulated evidence that meditation reduces the deterioration of the brain with aging. It appears to do so by altering a number of different mechanisms including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity. This protection of the brain may be responsible to the ability of meditation to reduce the decline in mental abilities that occur with aging. This would tend to make aging a more benign process.

 

So, protect the aging brain with meditation.

 

We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.” – Florian Kurth

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 860. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00860

 

Abstract

Over the last decade, an increasing number of studies has reported a positive impact of meditation on cerebral aging. However, the underlying mechanisms for these seemingly brain-protecting effects are not well-understood. This may be due to the fact, at least partly, that systematic empirical meditation research has emerged only recently as a field of scientific scrutiny. Thus, on the one hand, critical questions remain largely unanswered; and on the other hand, outcomes of existing research require better integration to build a more comprehensive and holistic picture. In this article, we first review theories and mechanisms pertaining to normal (brain) aging, specifically focusing on telomeres, inflammation, stress regulation, and macroscopic brain anatomy. Then, we summarize existing research integrating the developing evidence suggesting that meditation exerts positive effects on (brain) aging, while carefully discussing possible mechanisms through which these effects may be mediated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/

Improve Psychology and Physiology with a Meditation and Yoga Retreat

Improve Psychology and Physiology with a Meditation and Yoga Retreat

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga is fantastic for decreasing stress levels, and research has also shown that those who practice yoga regularly have higher levels of leptin and adiponectin in their bodies. Both of these natural chemicals work to alleviate inflammation in the body.” –  Julie Montagu

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Of course, it is far better to prevent chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat it later. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if Mind-body techniques can be effective in preventing chronic inflammation also in healthy individuals. In today’s Research News article “Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483482/, Cahn and colleagues investigate the effects of a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat on the functioning of the immune and activation systems.

 

They recruited male and female experienced yoga and meditation practitioners (average of 2 hours practice per day for 4.5 years) who were participating in a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat. The retreat involved daily yoga (about 1.5 hours per day), meditation (about 2 hours), and chanting (about 1 hour) practices and a vegetarian diet. They were measured before and during the last week of the retreat for mindfulness, psychological symptoms, and absorption. They also provided a saliva sample for cortisol assay and a blood sample for markers of the inflammatory processes.

 

They found that although the participants had high psychological health before the retreat that following the retreat there were significant reductions in psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, and bodily symptoms and an increase in mindfulness. There were also significant increases in the neurotrophic factor, BDNF, pro-inflammatory factors, and cortisol levels immediately after waking up in the morning. Hence participation in the retreat produced improved psychological health, brain protection and development factor, and increased inflammatory system activity, and morning activation. The study did not have a control condition. So, the results could be due simply to the passage of time or expectancy or attentional effects. Future studies should include a control condition.

 

The improved mental health is similar to prior research findings that mindfulness practices improve anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. They are, however, a bit surprising as the participants were very psychologically healthy at the beginning of the retreat. This underscores the power of mindfulness practices in improving mental health. The increase in BDNF levels also underscores the ability of mindfulness practices to improve brain processing as BDNF is a neurotrophic factor that promotes neuroplasticity and brain health. The biological results are quite surprising. They conflict with previous research that has shown that mindfulness practices decrease inflammatory factors and cortisol levels. It is possible that because the participants were experienced practitioners that the beneficial effects of mindfulness practices were already high and further improvements would be difficult to detect. In addition, the retreat was physically demanding. As such, increased inflammation would be adaptive.

 

So, improve the physiology to control inflammation and stress with a meditation and yoga retreat.

 

“The more we learn about yoga, the more we realize the benefits aren’t all in the mind. . . Yoga helps people to relax, making the heart rate go down, which is great for those with high blood pressure. The poses help increase flexibility and strength, bringing relief to back pain sufferers. Now, . . . it seems that those meditative sun salutations and downward dog poses can reduce inflammation, the body’s way of reacting to injury or irritation.” – Susan Brink

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Cahn, B. R., Goodman, M. S., Peterson, C. T., Maturi, R., & Mills, P. J. (2017). Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 315. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00315

 

Abstract

Thirty-eight individuals (mean age: 34.8 years old) participating in a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat were assessed before and after the intervention for psychometric measures, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), circadian salivary cortisol levels, and pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Participation in the retreat was found to be associated with decreases in self-reported anxiety and depression as well as increases in mindfulness. As hypothesized, increases in the plasma levels of BDNF and increases in the magnitude of the cortisol awakening response (CAR) were also observed. The normalized change in BDNF levels was inversely correlated with BSI-18 anxiety scores at both the pre-retreat (r = 0.40, p < 0.05) and post-retreat (r = 0.52, p < 0.005) such that those with greater anxiety scores tended to exhibit smaller pre- to post-retreat increases in plasma BDNF levels. In line with a hypothesized decrease in inflammatory processes resulting from the yoga and meditation practices, we found that the plasma level of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-10 was increased and the pro-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-12 was reduced after the retreat. Contrary to our initial hypotheses, plasma levels of other pro-inflammatory cytokines, including Interferon Gamma (IFN-γ), Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-α), Interleukin-1β (IL-1β), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and Interleukin-8 (IL-8) were increased after the retreat. Given evidence from previous studies of the positive effects of meditative practices on mental fitness, autonomic homeostasis and inflammatory status, we hypothesize that these findings are related to the meditative practices throughout the retreat; however, some of the observed changes may also be related to other aspects of the retreat such as physical exercise-related components of the yoga practice and diet. We hypothesize that the patterns of change observed here reflect mind-body integration and well-being. The increased BDNF levels observed is a potential mediator between meditative practices and brain health, the increased CAR is likely a reflection of increased dynamic physiological arousal, and the relationship of the dual enhancement of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine changes to healthy immunologic functioning is discussed.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5483482/

Change Gene Expression to Lessen the Effects of Chronic Stress with Mind-Body Practices

Change Gene Expression to Lessen the Effects of Chronic Stress with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business. These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.” – Ivana Buric

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that Mind-body practices have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

It is clear that Mind-body practices affect the physiology. In other words, the mind can alter the body. In turn, the genes can affect our minds. In fact, the genes have been shown to affect an individual’s inherent level of mindfulness. These interactions are well documented. The mechanisms by which they occur, however, are not well understood. It has been shown that contemplative practices help create balance in the inflammatory response which is very beneficial for health. But, the mechanism through which contemplative practices affect the immune system is not known. The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including immune and inflammatory responses. So, it would seem reasonable to investigate whether alterations in gene expressions might be the intermediary between mind-body therapies and health.

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. Its primary effect is to increase blood circulation around the infected area, dilating the blood vessels around the site of inflammation. It also produces gaps in the cell walls surrounding the infected area, allowing the larger immune cells, to pass. It also tends to increase body temperature to further fight infection. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries and as such is an important defense mechanism for the body. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health, producing autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression.

Mind-body practices appear to relax the physical systems of the body including the immune system, reducing inflammation. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Hence, it makes sense to investigate the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions that underlie the immune and inflammatory responses. In today’s Research News article “What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472657/, Buric and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions.

 

They found 18 published research articles. These articles, in general, report that following engaging in mind-body practices there is a reduction in the expression of genes that are involved in the inflammatory response resultant from chronic stress, particularly downregulation of NF-κB-targeted genes. It has been well established that mind-body practices reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. The published research on the effects of mind-body practices on gene expressions provide a mechanism by which these practices affect the stress response. They do so by affecting the physiology on the molecular level altering the genes that underlie the chemical processes involved in the inflammatory responses to stress.

 

These findings suggest that Mind-body practices can improve the health and well-being of the practitioner. One of the premiere mechanisms by which this is accomplished is by reducing the individual’s responses to the debilitating effects of chronic stress. Many of the difficulties produced by chronic stress are caused by producing a chronic inflammatory response damaging tissues. It appears that mind-body practices improve health by altering the genes that underlie these processes.

 

So, change gene expression to lessen the effects of chronic stress with mind-body practices.

 

“doing yoga or meditating may lead to a decrease in cyctokine production, and a reversal of the inflammatory gene, which ultimately lowers the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.” – Brianna Steinhilber

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Buric, I., Farias, M., Jong, J., Mee, C., & Brazil, I. A. (2017). What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 670. http://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

 

Abstract

There is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind–body interventions (MBIs) in improving mental and physical health, but the molecular mechanisms of these benefits remain poorly understood. One hypothesis is that MBIs reverse expression of genes involved in inflammatory reactions that are induced by stress. This systematic review was conducted to examine changes in gene expression that occur after MBIs and to explore how these molecular changes are related to health. We searched PubMed throughout September 2016 to look for studies that have used gene expression analysis in MBIs (i.e., mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, relaxation response, and breath regulation). Due to the limited quantity of studies, we included both clinical and non-clinical samples with any type of research design. Eighteen relevant studies were retrieved and analyzed. Overall, the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a downregulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases. However, it is unclear how the effects of MBIs compare to other healthy interventions such as exercise or nutrition due to the small number of available studies. More research is required to be able to understand the effects of MBIs at the molecular level.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5472657/

Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Healthy and Cancer Patients with Mindfulness

Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Healthy and Cancer Patients with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“stressed-out adults who practised mindfulness meditation not only had their brain connectivity altered, they also had reduced levels of a key inflammation biomarker, known as Interleukin-6, four months later. That’s important because, in high doses, Interleukin-6 has been linked to inflammation-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune conditions.” – Fiona McDonald

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Of course it is far better to prevent chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat it later. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if Mind-body techniques can be effective in preventing chronic inflammation also in healthy individuals. In today’s Research News article “Effects of mindfulness-based interventions on biomarkers in healthy and cancer populations: a systematic review.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5324275/

Sanada and colleagues review the published research literature on the effects of Mind-body practices on biomarkers of the inflammatory response and compare the effects in healthy individuals to that of cancer patients.

 

They examined randomized controlled trials that trained participants in Mind-body practices for at least 6 weeks and measured biomarkers of the inflammatory response including  cytokines, neuropeptides and C-reactive protein (CRP). They found 7 studies on healthy individuals and 6 on cancer patients. They found that the literature, in general, indicated that Mind-body techniques had significant effects on these inflammatory biomarkers, but different studies using different techniques found that different biomarkers were affected. In regard to healthy individuals the studies reported no effects of Mind-body practices on cytokines, but significant increases in neuropeptides, particularly insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). In cancer patients the literature reports that Mind-body practices result in reduction of cytokines that promote inflammation, particularly IL-6 and TNF. In general the results for Mind-body practices effects on inflammatory biomarkers were mixed and at times contradictory.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that Mind-body practices affect inflammatory biomarkers in both healthy individuals and cancer patients. But, it is clear that the effects are not simple and straightforward. This could well be due to the mixture of different Mind-body practices. Even individual techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) contain complex mixtures of Mind-body practices. As such, it is difficult to separate out their varying effects. But, nevertheless the literature suggests that Mind-body practices affect the inflammatory response, which may, to some extent, explain these practices’ beneficial effects on health.

 

So, improve inflammatory biomarkers in healthy and cancer patients with mindfulness.

 

“It turns out that some of the most difficult elements of the cancer experience are very well-suited to a mindfulness practice.” – Linda Carlson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Sanada, K., Alda Díez, M., Salas Valero, M., Pérez-Yus, M. C., Demarzo, M. M. P., Montero-Marín, J., … García-Campayo, J. (2017). Effects of mindfulness-based interventions on biomarkers in healthy and cancer populations: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 125. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1638-y

 

Abstract

Background

Only a small number of articles have investigated the relationship between mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and biomarkers. The aim of this systematic review was to study the effect of MBIs on specific biomarkers (cytokines, neuropeptides and C-reactive protein (CRP)) in both healthy subjects and cancer patients.

Methods

A search was conducted using PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO and the Cochrane library between 1980 and September 2016.

Results

A total of 13 studies with 1110 participants were included. In the healthy population, MBIs had no effect on cytokines, but were found to increase the levels of the neuropeptide insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). With respect to neuropeptide Y, despite the absence of post-intervention differences, MBIs may enhance recovery from stress. With regard to CRP, MBIs could be effective in lower Body Mass Index (BMI) individuals. In cancer patients, MBIs seem to have some effect on cytokine levels, although it was not possible to determine which specific cytokines were affected. One possibility is that MBIs might aid recovery of the immune system, increasing the production of interleukin (IL)-4 and decreasing interferon gamma (IFN-γ).

Conclusions

MBIs may be involved in changes from a depressive/carcinogenic profile to a more normalized one. However, given the complexity and different contexts of the immune system, and the fact that this investigation is still in its preliminary stage, additional randomized controlled trials are needed to further establish the impact of MBI programmes on biomarkers in both clinical and non-clinical populations.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5324275/

Live Longer with Yoga and Meditation

 

Live Longer with Yoga and Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A growing body of research supports the immediate benefits of meditation, such as reduced stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and enhanced happiness. While these initial perks may be reason enough for us to practice, meditation’s positive impact appears to be even more far-reaching, potentially adding years to our lives and improving cognitive function well into old age.” – Rina Deshpande

 

One of the most exciting findings in molecular biology in recent years was the discovery of the telomere. This is a component of the DNA molecule that is attached to the ends of the strands. Recent genetic research has suggested that the telomere and its regulation is the biological mechanism that produces aging. It has been found that the genes, coded on the DNA molecule, govern cellular processes in our bodies. One of the most fundamental of these processes is cell replication. Cells are constantly turning over. Dying cells or damaged are replaced by new cells. The cells turn over at different rates but most cells in the body are lost and replaced between every few days to every few months. Needless to say, we’re constantly renewing ourselves.

 

As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis, this is what produces aging. As we get older the new cells produced are more and more likely to be defective. The shortening of the telomere occurs each time the cell is replaced. So, slowly as we age it gets shorter and shorter. This has been called a “mitotic clock.” This is normal. But, telomere shortening can also be produced by oxidative stress, which can be produced by psychological and physiological stress. This is mediated by stress hormones and the inflammatory response. So, chronic stress can accelerate the aging process. In other words, when we’re chronically stressed we get older faster.

 

Fortunately, there is a mechanism to protect the telomere. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. It also promotes cell survival and enhances stress-resistance.  Research suggests that processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process by protecting the telomere.  One activity that seems to increase telomerase activity and protect telomere length is mindfulness practice. Hence, engaging in mindfulness practices may protect the telomere and thereby slow the aging process.

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278216/

Tolahunase and colleagues examined the effects of a program of yoga and meditation on biomarkers of cellular aging in a healthy population. They recruited healthy adults, aged 35-65 years who led modern sedentary lifestyles and provided them with a 12-week program of Hatha and Raja yogic meditation, breathing exercises, and postures. Sessions were held five days per week for 90 minutes. Participants were measured before and after treatment for a variety of biomarkers of cellular aging.

 

They found that at the end of the 12-week program there were significant reductions in the levels of the oxidative stress and inflammatory response related biomarkers 8-OH2dG, ROS, cortisol, and IL-6suggesting a reduction in chemical activity that tends to increase cellular aging. They also found that there were significant increases in TAC a marker of antioxidant activity, and markers of cellular aging of telomerase activity, an enzyme that protects the telomeres, β-endorphin, BDNF, and sirtuin-1. Hence, they found clear evidence that the meditation and yoga program greatly reduced the underlying biochemical processes of cellular aging in an otherwise healthy group of adults.

 

It should be mentioned that there wasn’t a control condition, particularly one that included light exercise. So, it cannot be determined if the results were due to participant expectancies, experimenter bias, attentional effects, the effects of exercise in a sedentary population, or many other potential confounding factors. A randomized controlled clinical trial including a group engaging in light exercise is needed to clarify the causal factors involved. Regardless of the explanation, this study demonstrated that the yoga and meditation program resulted in improvements in biomarkers that suggest that there was a slowing of the processes of cellular aging that underlie the aging of the body. This suggests that engaging in this or similar programs may lead to a longer, healthier life.

 

So, Live Longer with Yoga and Meditation.

 

“Yoga and meditation are well-documented to have psychological, emotional and physical benefits for people at all stages of health, including cancer patients. Now breakthrough research reveals yoga and meditation can positively affect DNA.” – Elaine Gavalas

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tolahunase, M., Sagar, R., & Dada, R. (2017). Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 7928981. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/7928981

 

Abstract

This study was designed to explore the impact of Yoga and Meditation based lifestyle intervention (YMLI) on cellular aging in apparently healthy individuals. During this 12-week prospective, open-label, single arm exploratory study, 96 apparently healthy individuals were enrolled to receive YMLI. The primary endpoints were assessment of the change in levels of cardinal biomarkers of cellular aging in blood from baseline to week 12, which included DNA damage marker 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OH2dG), oxidative stress markers reactive oxygen species (ROS), and total antioxidant capacity (TAC), and telomere attrition markers telomere length and telomerase activity. The secondary endpoints were assessment of metabotrophic blood biomarkers associated with cellular aging, which included cortisol, β-endorphin, IL-6, BDNF, and sirtuin-1. After 12 weeks of YMLI, there were significant improvements in both the cardinal biomarkers of cellular aging and the metabotrophic biomarkers influencing cellular aging compared to baseline values. The mean levels of 8-OH2dG, ROS, cortisol, and IL-6 were significantly lower and mean levels of TAC, telomerase activity, β-endorphin, BDNF, and sirtuin-1 were significantly increased (all values p < 0.05) post-YMLI. The mean level of telomere length was increased but the finding was not significant (p = 0.069). YMLI significantly reduced the rate of cellular aging in apparently healthy population.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278216/

 

Change the Genes and the Brain for the Better with Mindfulness

Change the Genes and the Brain for the Better with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists looked at how mindfulness practice affected genetic differences between one group of expert meditators compared with a control group of untrained meditators. “most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.” – Perla Kaliman

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings to demonstrate that mind-body therapies have highly beneficial effects on the health and well-being of humans. These include meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises. Because of their proven benefits the application of these practices to relieving human suffering has skyrocketed.

 

It is clear that Mind-body therapies affect the physiology. In other words, the mind can alter the body. One way it can do that is by altering the nervous system. Meditation training has been shown to alter the nervous system, increasing the size and connectivity of structures associated with present moment awareness, higher level thinking, and regulation of emotions, while decreasing the size and connectivity of structures associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). The brain is capable of changing and adapting in a process called neuroplasticity. As a result, the neural changes produced by meditation training become relatively permanent.

 

The mind can also affect the physiology through altering genetic processes. The genes dictate all of the chemical processes in our bodies including the immune system and the inflammatory response. In turn, the genes can affect our minds. In fact, the genes have been shown to affect an individual’s inherent emotions and level of mindfulness.

 

There has been a considerable amount of research over the last decade on the effects of mind-body therapies on the nervous system and gene expression. In today’s Research News article “The Embodied Mind: A Review on Functional Genomic and Neurological Correlates of Mind-Body Therapies.” See summary below. Muehsam and colleagues review and summarize these studies. They categorized the studies as either top-down, where mind-body therapies alter the physiology by altering attention, intention, and cognitive processes, or bottom-up, where the physical processes involved in mind-body therapies affect the nervous system. Hence, mind-body therapies act by altering the immune systems and the nervous system.

 

One of the primary actions of mind-body therapies is to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress which, in turn, affects wellness and well-being.  Studies indicate that these therapies alter the response of the brain-hormone axis that results in the production of glucocorticoids and alters the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Both of these effects alter gene expression, cellular aging, immune function, and healthy brain function. In addition, mind-body therapies can alter the immune systems inflammatory processes via action on the vagus nerve. This reduces the damage that can occur due to chronic stress producing chronic inflammation. Thus mind-body therapies act by eliminating or lessening the harmful effects of chronic stressors, thus allowing the body’s innate healing responses to be fully expressed.

 

The second major way mind-body practices impact the individual’s health and well-being is through neuromodulation. Mind-body practices alter the individual’s cognitive/affective state which have been shown to influence activity in brain regions including orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and somatosensory cortex. These practices alter the volume of brain tissue, its activity, and its connectivity with other brain regions and appear to produce relatively permanent changes in the brain via neuroplasticity. In addition, they decrease the size and connectivity of structures associated with mind wandering and self-referential thinking, known as the Default Mode Network (DMN). These changes, in turn, affect attention, learning, and emotion regulation, all of which are important for psychological health.

 

So, the published research literature reflects an increasing understanding of not only the beneficial effects of mind-body practices, but also the physiological processes and mechanisms though which these benefits occur. This produces a clear picture that mind-body practices act through the nervous and immune systems to improve the health and well-being of the practitioners.

 

“Mindfulness:  a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress. It can be integrated into one’s religious or spiritual life, or practiced as a form of secular mental training.  When we take a seat, take a breath, and commit to being mindful, particularly when we gather with others who are doing the same, we have the potential to be changed.” – Christina Congleton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Muehsam D, Lutgendorf S, Mills PJ, Rickhi B, Chevalier G, Bat N, Chopra D, Gurfein B. The Embodied Mind: A Review on Functional Genomic and Neurological Correlates of Mind-Body Therapies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2016 Dec 22. pii: S0149-7634(16)30325-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.12.027. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

 

Highlights

  • Functional genomic and neurological correlates of mind-body practices are reviewed.
  • EEG and Neuroimaging correlates of mind-body therapies and meditation are reviewed.
  • Mechanisms of action by which mind-body practices influence health outcomes are discussed

Abstract

A broad range of mind-body therapies (MBTs) are used by the public today, and a growing body of clinical and basic sciences research has resulted in evidence-based integration of many MBTs into clinical practice. Basic sciences research has identified some of the physiological correlates of MBT practices, leading to a better understanding of the processes by which emotional, cognitive and psychosocial factors can influence health outcomes and well-being. In particular, results from functional genomics and neuroimaging describe some of the processes involved in the mind-body connection and how these can influence health outcomes. Functional genomic and neurophysiological correlates of MBTs are reviewed, detailing studies showing changes in sympathetic nervous system activation of gene transcription factors involved in immune function and inflammation, electroencephalographic and neuroimaging studies on MBT practices, and persistent changes in neural function and morphology associated with these practices. While the broad diversity of study designs and MBTs studied presents a patchwork of results requiring further validation through replication and longitudinal studies, clear themes emerge for MBTs as immunomodulatory, with effects on leukocyte transcription and function related to inflammatory and innate immune responses, and neuromodulatory, with effects on brain function and morphology relevant for attention, learning, and emotion regulation. By detailing the potential mechanisms of action by which MBTs may influence health outcomes, the data generated by these studies have contributed significantly towards a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying MBTs.

Reduce Interpersonal Trauma Symptoms with Mindfulness

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Reduce Interpersonal Trauma Symptoms with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health,” David Creswell

 

Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. Trauma produced by one person on another, interpersonal trauma, frequently involves intimate partners and can occur as personal assault, sexual assault, witnessing family violence, and sudden loss of a loved one. This is common particularly with low income women. The psychological consequences can be profound and endure over a lifetime, and can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

Another common consequence of the stress produced by trauma is an increase in inflammation. The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, such as can occur with trauma, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, and psoriasis. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. In addition, it can exacerbate the psychological issues produced by trauma including increasing the severity depression.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to both help improve the symptoms of trauma and to reduce the inflammatory response. So, it would be reasonable to predict that mindfulness training would be useful in reducing the inflammation resulting from interpersonal trauma in women. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to Enhance Psychological Functioning and Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Trauma-Exposed Women: A Pilot Study.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1462456350444953/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624080/

Gallegos and colleagues recruited low-income women who had experienced interpersonal trauma and provided them with an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) treatment. Measurements were taken before, during (4th week), and immediately after treatment, and 4 weeks later of traumatic events, cognitive performance, perceived stress, anxiety, emotion regulation, PTSD symptoms, and mindfulness. In addition, blood was drawn and assayed for markers of inflammation.

 

They found that the MBSR treatment significantly increased mindfulness and emotion regulation and decreased perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. In addition, attendance at MBSR sessions was significantly related to decreases in IL-6 levels, a marker of inflammation. All of these improvements were maintained 4-weeks after the end of MBSR training. Hence Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) produced significant and lasting improvement in both the psychological and inflammatory effects of interpersonal trauma. It should be kept in mind that no control condition was employed. So, the results could have been produced by a placebo effect and any form of treatment might have produced comparable improvements. A controlled clinical trial is needed to confirm that MBSR was responsible for the effects.

 

It comes as no surprise that mindfulness training had these effects in women who experienced interpersonal trauma as mindfulness training has been previously been shown with other groups to produce improvement in mindfulness, emotion regulation, perceived stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD symptoms, and inflammation. What the present study contributes is a demonstration that these benefits also occur in women who have experienced interpersonal trauma.

 

So, reduce interpersonal trauma symptoms with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness meditation reduces levels of interleukin 6 by altering patterns of functional connectivity: communication between different regions of the brain. “By modulating functional connectivity, you’re affecting the cell groups that influence the release of inflammatory markers and stress hormones,”  –  Adrienne Taren

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Gallegos, A. M., Lytle, M. C., Moynihan, J. A., & Talbot, N. L. (2015). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to Enhance Psychological Functioning and Improve Inflammatory Biomarkers in Trauma-Exposed Women: A Pilot Study. Psychological Trauma : Theory, Research, Practice and Policy, 7(6), 525–532. http://doi.org/10.1037/tra0000053

 

Abstract

This study examined the effects of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program on psychological functioning and inflammatory biomarkers in women with histories of interpersonal trauma. The 8-week MBSR program was conducted at a community-based health center and participants (N = 50) completed several measures of psychological functioning at study entry as well as 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and 12 weeks later. Inflammatory biomarkers were assayed from blood collected at each assessment. A series of linear mixed model analyses were conducted to measure the effect of attendance and time on the dependent variables. Time was associated with significant decreases in perceived stress, depression, trait and state anxiety, emotion dysregulation, and post-traumatic stress symptoms as well as increases in mindfulness. Session attendance was associated with significant decreases in interleukin (IL)-6 levels. This pilot study demonstrated the potential beneficial effects of MBSR on psychological functioning and the inflammatory biomarker IL-6 among trauma-exposed and primarily low-income women. Decreases in inflammation have implications for this population, as interpersonal trauma can instigate chronic physiological dysregulation, heightened morbidity, and premature death. This study’s preliminary results support efforts to investigate biological remediation with behavioral interventions in vulnerable populations.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4624080/

 

Strengthen the Immune System with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Stress is immunosuppressive. Research into this pernicious relationship between stress and disease has piqued interest in the ways that contemplative practices might positively influence the immune system. According to a large body of evidence, meditation appears to have profound effects on immune function in health and disease because of its ability to reduce stress.” – David Vago

 

Contemplative practices have been found to improve the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners and to relieve the symptoms of a large number of mental and physical diseases. How these practices might have such widespread benefits is not precisely known. In fact, there may not be one mechanism but many. One important benefit of mindfulness practices appears to be a strengthening of the immune system, the body’s primary defense against disease. Through a series of steps called the immune response, this system attacks organisms and substances that invade body systems and cause disease. It is important that it be properly tuned as too weak of an immune response can allow diseases to develop while too strong of a response can result in autoimmune diseases.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1387898754567380/?type=3&theater

or see summary below. Black and Slavich review the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness meditation on immune system function. They found and summarized twenty randomized controlled studies that administered mindfulness meditation and measured objective biomarkers of immune system activity, usually in the blood. All but three of the studies used a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or similar programs. MBSR includes a combination of meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. They found the published research reported that mindfulness meditation produced a reduction in biomarkers of inflammation including cellular transcription factor NF-κB and liver-derived C-reactive protein, CRP, and increases in cell-mediated immunity, CD4+ T cell count, and increases in telomerase activity indicating decreased biological aging.

 

These are remarkable findings suggesting that mindfulness meditation practice improves immune system function and reduces the processes of cellular aging. The reduction in the inflammatory response is significant as the inflammatory response which works quite well for short-term infections and injuries can, if protracted, itself become a threat to health, producing autoimmune diseases. Indeed, chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. The improvements in cellular immunity suggest that meditation practice improves the ability of the body to fend off disease by destroying cells that have been infected, an important protection against the spread of disease through the body. Finally, the findings that mindfulness meditation practices increase telomerase activity is very exciting. The telomere is attached to the ends of the DNA molecule. As we age the telomere shortens, resulting in difficulty with cells reproducing, producing more defective cells. The enzyme telomerase helps to prevent shortening of the telomere and thereby slow the aging process.  It appears that mindfulness meditation increases telomerase activity and thereby slow the aging process.

 

Hence, accumulating scientific evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation has very positive effects on the immune system which improve health and longevity. It is not known exactly how these practices do this, but it is likely that the ability of mindfulness meditation to reduce the physical and psychological responses to stress is responsible. Chronic stress is known to impair immune system function, so its reduction may be responsible to the improved function of this system. Regardless of the mechanism, it is clear that mindfulness meditation is good for health, improving the systems that help to maintain it.

 

Strengthen the immune system with mindfulness.

 

“We still don’t know the precise mechanism by which control of attention or meditation acts this way on the immune system. It’s likely that a more “distant” and serene outlook, which is common during periods of meditation (and also between meditation sessions) gives rise to a weaker secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, and that this allows the immune cells to remain more active.” – David Servan-Schreiber

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Black, D. S. and Slavich, G. M. (2016), Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1373: 13–24.

 

Abstract

Mindfulness meditation represents a mental training framework for cultivating the state of mindful awareness in daily life. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in how mindfulness meditation improves human health and well-being. Although studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can improve self-reported measures of disease symptomatology, the effect that mindfulness meditation has on biological mechanisms underlying human aging and disease is less clear. To address this issue, we conducted the first comprehensive review of randomized controlled trials examining the effects of mindfulness meditation on immune system parameters, with a specific focus on five outcomes: (1) circulating and stimulated inflammatory proteins, (2) cellular transcription factors and gene expression, (3) immune cell count, (4) immune cell aging, and (5) antibody response. This analysis revealed substantial heterogeneity across studies with respect to patient population, study design, and assay procedures. The findings suggest possible effects of mindfulness meditation on specific markers of inflammation, cell-mediated immunity, and biological aging, but these results are tentative and require further replication. On the basis of this analysis, we describe the limitations of existing work and suggest possible avenues for future research. Mindfulness meditation may be salutogenic for immune system dynamics, but additional work is needed to examine these effects.

Improve Metabolism and Reduce the Inflammatory Response with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Kick-start your sluggish metabolism by engaging in physical exercise. Yoga moves and poses can help increase your metabolism and help you be more fit.” – Robin Reichert

 

Metabolic Syndrome is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It generally results from overweight and abdominal obesity and includes high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevation of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. It is an important risk factor as it increases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes five-fold and heart attack or stroke three-fold. Metabolic Syndrome incidence has been rising rapidly and it currently affects 34% of U.S. adults. Needless to say this is a major health problem. The good news is that timely treatment can prevent or reverse the risk. The simplest treatment is simply exercise and weight loss.

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent.

 

Of course it is far better to prevent Metabolic Syndrome and chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat them later. Exercise can counteract their development and their consequent risks of disease. Yoga has been used to promote health and well-being for thousands of years. It has also been shown to be effective in treating Metabolic Syndrome. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Most of these results were obtained from treating diseased individuals. It is important to establish if yoga can be effective in preventing Metabolic Syndrome and chronic inflammation through practice by healthy individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of 8-Week Hatha Yoga Training on Metabolic and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy, Female Chinese Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1339638822726707/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987461/

Chen and colleagues recruited healthy women and randomly assigned them to either receive Hatha yoga practice for 8-weeks, twice a week for 60 minutes, or a control condition. Before and after the 8-week practice they had fasting blood drawn and clinical markers of insulin, glucose, triacylglycerol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and total cholesterol, and inflammation markers of plasma cytokines and endothelial microparticles measured.

 

They found that yoga practice produced a significant reduction in Metabolic Syndrome indicators; plasma insulin, total cholesterol, and LDL-C, and insulin resistance levels, and also inflammation indicators; endothelial microparticles, proinflammatory cytokines, and inflammatory signaling proteins. Thus, yoga practice appears to reduce circulating markers of Metabolic Syndrome and also the inflammatory response.

 

These are exciting and significant results. Keep in mind that the intervention consisted of a total of only 16 hours of gentle Hatha yoga over 8 weeks. So, it doesn’t seem to require intensive long-term practice to produce these benefits. Yet, the yoga improved markers that indicate a significant reduction in the risk of Metabolic Syndrome and a reduction in chronic inflammation. This suggests that yoga practice can prevent physiological reactions that lead to disease and thus could promote health and well-being.

 

So, improve health by improving metabolism and reducing the inflammatory response with yoga.

 

“We think improved sleep could be part of the mechanism of what we were seeing. When women were sleeping better, inflammation could have been lowered by that. Reducing fatigue enables women to engage in other activities over time. So yoga may have offered a variety of benefits in addition to the yoga exercises themselves.” – Janice Kiecolt-Glaser

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Chen, N., Xia, X., Qin, L., Luo, L., Han, S., Wang, G., … Wan, Z. (2016). Effects of 8-Week Hatha Yoga Training on Metabolic and Inflammatory Markers in Healthy, Female Chinese Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial. BioMed Research International, 2016, 5387258. http://doi.org/10.1155/2016/5387258

 

Abstract

We aimed to determine the effects of an 8 wk Hatha yoga training on blood glucose, insulin, lipid profiles, endothelial microparticles (EMPs), and inflammatory status in healthy, lean, and female Chinese subjects. A total of 30 healthy, female Chinese subjects were recruited and randomized into control or yoga practice group. The yoga practice included 8 wks of yoga practice (2 times/wk) for a total of 16 times. Fasting blood samples were collected before and after yoga training. Plasma was isolated for the measurement of lipid profiles, glucose, insulin, EMPs, and inflammatory cytokines. Whole blood was cultured ex vivo and stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Pam3Cys-SK4. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated for the measurement of TLR2 and TLR4 protein expression. Yoga practice significantly reduced plasma cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, insulin levels, and CD31+/CD42b− EMPs. Cultured whole blood from the yoga group has reduced proinflammatory cytokines secretion both at unstimulated condition and when stimulated with Pam3Cys-SK4; this might be associated with reduced TLR2 protein expression in PBMCs after yoga training. Hatha yoga practice in healthy Chinese female subjects could improve hallmarks related to MetS; thus it can be considered as an ancillary intervention in the primary MetS prevention for the healthy population.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987461/

 

Reduce Inflammation and Depression with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is a valuable practice for improving the cognitive symptoms of depression, such as distorted thinking and distractibility. It helps individuals recognize these more subtle symptoms, realize that thoughts are not facts and refocus their attention to the present.” –  Margarita Tartakovsky

 

Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders. In 2014, an estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. This number represented 6.7% of all adults. In addition, major depression carries the heaviest burden of disability among mental and behavioral disorders. It is most frequently treated with anti-depressive drugs. But, these frequently do not work or lose effectiveness over time and have many troublesome side effects. So, there is a need for better treatment methods.

 

Depression has been linked to chronic inflammation. Patients with major depressive disorder exhibit all of the cardinal features of an inflammatory response, including increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and their receptors. In addition, administration of inflammatory cytokines to otherwise non-depressed individuals cause symptoms of depression. This suggests that chronic inflammation may be a contributing factor to the development, promotion, or maintenance of depression.

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to be effective in the treatment of chronic depression. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation and the inflammatory cytokines. So, it would make sense to study the relationship of mindfulness training to depression and the inflammatory response in depressed individuals. In today’s Research News article “Brief Mindfulness Training Reduces Salivary IL-6 and TNF-α in Young Women with Depressive Symptomatology.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1270480726309184/?type=3&theater

or below,

Walsh and colleagues do just that. They recruited female college students who had mild to moderate depression and assigned them to either a mindfulness training group or a contact control group. Mindfulness training was modelled after a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program and included meditation, body scan, and yoga, but the program was conducted over only 4 weeks rather than the customary 8 weeks. The contact control group met in a group on a similar schedule but simple filled out questionnaires. The participants were measured for salivary inflammatory cytokine levels, depression, and other mental issues both before and training and 3 months later.

 

They found that mindfulness training decreased the levels of the inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α between 59% to 76% and this decrease was maintained at the 3 month follow up. There was also a significant decrease in depression but this was true for both the mindfulness and contact groups. The higher the levels of baseline depression the greater the effect of mindfulness training on reducing inflammatory cytokines. These results suggest that mindfulness training is effective in reducing the inflammatory response and that the more depressed the individual is the greater the benefit.

 

These are exciting findings. They suggest that mindfulness training reduces chronic inflammation in depressed women. The fact that the depression levels were low to start with may have produced a floor effect making it impossible to detect a benefit of mindfulness training on the levels of depression. This prohibits and analysis of the relationship of the reduction in the inflammatory cytokines to the reduction in depression. But, the results are suggestive of a potential effect in that the most depressed women showed the greatest reductions in the inflammatory response. It will require further work with women exhibiting higher levels of depression and perhaps with a longer treatment period to conclusively demonstrate whether there’s a causal connection between the two.

 

Mindfulness training has a number of known effects that may underlie its ability to reduce depression and inflammation. In particular mindfulness training has been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. This decreased stress response may be responsible for the reduction in inflammation. In addition, mindfulness training is known to improve focus on the present moment and thereby reduce rumination about the past or worry about the future, both of which are characteristic of depression. This may well underlie the ability of mindfulness training to reduce depression.

 

So, reduce inflammation and depression with mindfulness.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

“Everyone can benefit from mindfulness meditation, but some can more than others.  There are no negative side effects of mindfulness, and there are the positive benefits of stress reduction and relaxation.  Reducing inflammation and boosting immune health can help fight a broad range of ailments, from a stubbed toe to chronic inflammatory conditions.” – Amanda Page

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Walsh, E., Eisenlohr-Moul, T., & Baer, R. (2016). Brief Mindfulness Training Reduces Salivary IL-6 and TNF-α in Young Women with Depressive Symptomatology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, doi:10.1037/ccp0000122

 

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Pro-inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in the pathophysiology and maintenance of depression. This study investigated the effects of a brief mindfulness intervention on salivary pro-inflammatory correlates of depression (IL-6, TNF-α) and self-reported symptoms of depression in college women.

METHODS: Sixty-four females with a cut score of ≥16 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies for Depression Scale (CES-D) were assigned to a 4-week mindfulness-based intervention (MBI; N = 31) or a contact-control group (N = 33). For both groups, salivary cytokines and depressive symptoms were assessed at baseline and posttreatment. For the mindfulness group only, salivary cytokines were also assessed at a 3-month follow-up.

RESULTS: Both groups showed similar reductions in depression. However, MBI (vs. control) predicted greater reductions in IL-6 and TNF-α; changes in IL-6 were sustained at 3-month follow-up. Higher baseline depressive symptoms predicted greater reductions in inflammation in the mindfulness group.

CONCLUSION: MBIs may reduce inflammatory immune markers commonly implicated in depression. Individuals with greater depressive symptoms may benefit more from mindfulness training. Although reductions in salivary cytokines in the mindfulness condition were not attributable to changes in depressive symptoms, future work should examine the possibility that such reductions are protective against the development of future depressive episodes.

http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.shsu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=911f511a-9143-4771-8f7c-e876dcfe165f%40sessionmgr4005&hid=4208