Thursday, January 3, 2013

Meditation Improves Telomerase Activity ... Maybe

For longevity, you want long telomeres, and that requires telomerase.  If you have an increased sense of purpose in life, you might just have longer telomeres.

From the article "Meditation improves telomerase activity: a healthier life – but not for all!"

The study furthermore showed that the increase in telomerase activity was a result of psychological factors, namely the increase in perceived control and the decrease in negative affectivity the participants experienced as a result of the retreat.

In sum, the meditation practice resulted in increased telomere activity, which is considered to indicate improved physiological health with implications for telomere length and immune cell longevity.

However, there also is a small catch. When scrutinising the results further, the researchers found that only those participants of the 3-month shamatha retreat who experienced an increase of ‘Purpose in Life’ had higher telomerase activity at the end of the retreat, whereas those who did not experience such an increase did not. It seems that just sitting in a retreat and practicing meditation does not suffice – our biology seems to respond even to our views and motivations. The study did, however, not investigate what exactly the purpose of life is the participants experienced, but defined it in rather general terms as experiencing life as meaningful, organised around clear aims, and clearly directed.

As loving kindness and compassion meditations were a central part of the retreat programme, I dare speculating that the increased purpose in life may be related to this: Seeing one’s purpose in life as bringing benefit, meaning and fulfilment to others, may have the side-effect of better biological health and reduced effects of age on the body. – This would be good news!

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