In 2009, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a molecular biologist at Univ. of Calif. of San Francisco, was awarded the Nobel Prize for breakthrough research and discovery on a key enzyme in normal cell function, cell aging and many cancers.
The enzyme is called Telomerase that produces telomere that protects the stability of DNA structure and helps with accurate cell division. While we start out with longer telomere length, our lifestyle and aging process shorten the telomere length. Shortening of telomeres has also been co-related to diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
On a brighter note, the discovery of telomeres is a great example of epigenetics, meaning what you do affects your genetic future, positively or negatively. Nothing is as set in stone as we had once believed.
The following studies have found yoga and meditation can protect and even lengthen DNA telomeres:
To summarize, 88 breast cancer survivors were prescribed gentle Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation. Their telomeres lengths were maintained, while those of another group who was prescribed group therapy were significantly shorter.
The researchers conclude that “psychosocial interventions providing stress reduction and emotional support resulted in trends toward TL (telomeres) maintenance in distressed breast cancer survivors, compared with decreases in usual care.” Well, of course!!
Another study of healthy individuals once again confirms that what the researchers term the Yoga Meditation Life Intervention program has documented improved cellular longevity in the test subjects and illustrates how yoga and meditation can help counteract the damaging effects of the modern lifestyle and the “associate psychosocial stress.”
Some of the skeptics point out these are “suggestive findings” that have yet to be confirmed in any large-scale study. My response: Which pharmaceutical company will help finance a study that undermines its revenue stream?