A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology reviewed over a decade of studies analyzing how our genes are affected by different Mind-Body Interventions and and concluded meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don’t simply relax us, they can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression. Researchers reviewed 18 studies with 846 participants over 11 years and found a pattern of molecular changes that happened in the body as a result of the mind-body interventions. Those changes benefited the mental and physical health of the participants.
When a person is exposed to a stressful situation, their sympathetic nervous system is triggered that in turn increases production of af a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) that regulates how the genes are expressed. KF-kB translates stress by activating genes to produce protein called cytokines that cause inflammation at the cellular level-a reaction that is useful for short term fight or flight reactions. But if this persists it lead to a higher risk of cancer. accelerated aging, and psychiatric disorders like depression. Researchers found, however, that people who practice mind-body interventions exhibit the opposite effect-that is, a decrease in production of NF-kB and cytolines, leading to a reversal of the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern and a reduction in the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.
Researchers said “These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverse the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well-being.” “More needs to be done to understand these effects in greater depth, for example how they compare with other healthy interventions like exercise or nutrition. But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explain the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities.”