Harvard Study finds that Meditation Impacts DNA

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A Harvard University study published in 2008 found the first compelling evidence that the Relaxation Response (RR) – the physiological response to meditation, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong or repetitive prayer – affects our genes.

Nineteen adults were long-term daily practitioners of various RR techniques, 20 were trained in RR eliciting techniques (breathing, mantra and mindfulness meditation) for 8 weeks, and 19 served as controls.

By analysis of blood samples, the study found that 2209 genes were differently expressed (switched on or off) between the long-term meditators and control group. Specifically, 1275 were up-regulated (their activity was increased) and 934 were down-regulated (their activity was reduced). It also found that 1561 genes were expressed differently between the group who did the 8 weeks meditation training, who were considered novice meditators, and the control group. Specifically, 874 were up-regulated and 687 were down-regulated.

In other words, meditation – short or long term – causes hundreds of genes to turn on or off.

Many of the genes were involved in cellular metabolism and in the body’s response to ‘oxidative stress’. Oxidative stress is one of the biological products of mental and emotional stress. It produces free radicals and is known to be involved in a host of disease processes, including atherosclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It also accelerates aging at the cellular level. Ideally, we want a good response to oxidative stress so that we can prevent the negative effects.

In the study, blood analysis found significant changes in cellular metabolism and response to oxidative stress in the two meditation groups relative to the control group.

The scientists proposed that the Relaxation Response – whether it is induced through meditation, yoga or prayer – may counteract cellular damage due to chronic psychological stress.

People have meditated for years and enjoyed better health (and a slower aging process) but many others have been skeptical as to its benefits. Now, we have solid scientific proof of the positive genetic effects of meditation in that it affects genes that positively influence cell metabolism and the response to oxidative stress.

Here’s the link to the article. You can download the PDF free: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0002576

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  1. Gail Neckel on May 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    This article has amazing implications as to what and why we inherit the gene pool we do from our parents!!

  2. Louise Maree on May 5, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Love your work David. I am a huge fan of Dr Bruce Lipton and totally embody the fact that all our thoughts effect or bodies. I live it and use my beautiful body as a opportunity to adjust all my thoughts when it shows me what is out of balance. I deliver a program called Balanceology so that others to learn the art of being in flow. I totally agree that mediation is a key factor to restoring balance through the relaxation process, and if nothing else the relaxation is so worth the outcome. I did your process today BTW LOVE your accent, and it was so clear and incredibly relaxing and divine.
    Keep up the GREAT work and when are you visiting us in Australia?

    xo Louise Maree

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