Medical science is now accepting the fact that meditation really does have health benefits. A study, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, has discovered specific molecular changes in the body after meditation.
As one researcher put it, “Meditation predates the science that now endorses it.” Its practice was adopted by Eastern cultures over 5,000 years ago. However, it is fairly new to the West.
For the study, researchers compared two groups of people: experienced meditators and untrained subjects. The experienced meditators spent the day in intensive meditation while the untrained subjects enjoyed a day of quiet, non-meditative activities.
After eight hours, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences. These differences included reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes which results in faster physical recovery from stressful situations.
Dr. Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, said, "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice."
Mindfulness practice affected some of the regulatory pathways:
Analysis showed that two pro-inflammatory genes (RIPK2 and COX2) were affected, as were several histone deacetylase, or HDAC, genes. The extent to which some of the genes were affected related to faster cortisol recovery from a social stress test. Participants were asked to make an impromptu speech or complete mental calculations in front of an audience.
There were no differences in the tested genes at the start of the study. The effects were only seen in the meditators.
However, several other genes showed no differences between the two groups which suggests that mindfulness practice only affects certain regulatory pathways.
Perla Kaliman, researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, said, "Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions."
The genetic changes experienced by the meditators prove that meditation can lead to “epigenetic alterations of the genome.”
With research showing benefits for patients with Alzheimer’s and chronic inflammation, meditation is gaining support within the medical community.
Read the full article here: Meditation Changes Gene Expression, Study Shows