A new study shows that the ancient art of meditation has health effects that reach all the way down to genetic expression.
The study, appearing in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, demonstrates that meditation induces a set of specific molecular changes in the body. The authors believe this is the first time a study has shown the expression of genes can be a direct result of meditation.
Dividing participants into a group that regularly meditated and a group that was new to the practice, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain had them meditate for eight hours.
The meditating group demonstrated a host of genetic and molecular differences, including reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes. A closer analysis showed that the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 were affected, together with several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which control the activity of other genes by removing a chemical tag.
According to first author Perla Kaliman, researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona:
The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions. Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.
Despite this discovery, no other regulatory pathways were discovered, hinting that meditation may be highly specific in what it can affect.