A new study published last month in PLOS One found that the Transcendental Meditation technique and lifestyle changes both appear to stimulate genes that produce telomerase, an enzyme that’s associated with a decrease in cellular aging, reduced blood pressure, prevention of cardiovascular disease, and reduced mortality.
Specifically, these approaches were found to activate two genes that code for telomerase, which adds molecules to the ends of chromosomes, or telomeres, protecting them from deteriorating.
“The finding that telomerase gene expression is increased, and that this is associated with a reduction in blood pressure in a high-risk African-American population, suggests that this may be a mechanism by which stress reduction improves cardiovascular health,” said Robert Schneider, MD, FACC, coauthor of the study.
Earlier research on the Transcendental Meditation technique had found cardiovascular improvements and a reduction in death rates, as well as a substantial reduction in physiological age compared to chronological age. The new study examined what was happening at the level of DNA, showing that the Transcendental Meditation technique increases telomerase gene expression and suggesting that this may contribute to the cardiovascular and aging effects.
This pilot study, which was the central part of Shanthi Duramani’s PhD dissertation in physiology at MIU, included 48 men and women with high blood pressure. Half were assigned to a group that learned the Transcendental Meditation technique and received a basic health education course.
The other half were assigned to a group that focused on achieving significant lifestyle modifications such as weight reduction, reducing salt intake, engaging in regular physical activity, and moderating alcohol. They also participated in support groups and group exercises to support them in making substantial lifestyle changes.
After 16 weeks, both groups showed significant increases in telomerase expression and significant reductions in blood pressure. There was no significant difference between the changes in the two groups.
“Shanthi approached her PhD research in a very focused and systematic way,” said John Fagan, MIU professor of molecular biology and senior author on the study. “The result is valuable new information, relevant both to cardiovascular disease and to the molecular mechanisms related to the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.”
“These findings are very encouraging for prevention,” said Dr. Schneider, dean of the Maharishi College of Perfect Health. “They show that both the Transcendental Meditation technique and active lifestyle modification can contribute to heart health.”