Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Breast-feeding Might Shield Women From Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tips to Ease an Aching Back
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
More Americans Urged to Get Cancer Screenings
Scams and Shams That Prey on Cancer Patients
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
Simpler Sleep Apnea Treatment Seems Effective, Affordable
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Functional Foods Uncovered
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
Vitamin D May Help Keep Aging at Bay
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Short-Term Air Pollution Exposure May Damage DNA
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
Staying Slim Is Good for the Environment
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
Kids Think Glasses Make Others Look Smart, Honest
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Any Old Cane Won't Do
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
More Steps a Day Lead to Better Health
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
St. John's Wort Doesn't Work for ADHD
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
Add your Article

Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes

WEDNESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've taken a significant stride forward in understanding how relaxation techniques such as meditation, prayer and yoga improve health: by changing patterns of gene activity that affect how the body responds to stress.

The changes were seen both in long-term practitioners and in newer recruits, the scientists said.

"It's not all in your head," said Dr. Herbert Benson, president emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "What we have found is that when you evoke the relaxation response, the very genes that are turned on or off by stress are turned the other way. The mind can actively turn on and turn off genes. The mind is not separated from the body."

One outside expert agreed.

"It's sort of like reverse thinking: If you can wreak havoc on yourself with lifestyle choices, for example, [in a way that] causes expression of latent genetic manifestations in the negative, then the reverse should hold true," said Dr. Gerry Leisman, director of the F.R. Carrick Institute for Clinical Ergonomics, Rehabilitation and Applied Neuroscience at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K.

"Biology is not entirely our destiny, so while there are things that give us risk factors, there's a lot of 'wiggle' in this," added Leisman, who is also a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel. "This paper is pointing that there is a technique that allows us to play with the wiggle."

Benson, a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine, is co-senior author of the new study, which is published in the journal PLoS One.

Benson first described the relaxation response 35 years ago. Mind-body approaches that elicit the response include meditation, repetitive prayer, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided imagery and Qi Gong.

"Previously, we had noted that there were scores of diseases that could be treated by eliciting the relaxation response -- everything from different kinds of pain, infertility, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia," Benson said.

He believes that this study is the first comprehensive look at how mind states can affect gene expression. It also focuses on gene activity in healthy individuals.

Benson and his colleagues compared gene-expression patterns in 19 long-term practitioners, 19 healthy controls and 20 newcomers who underwent eight weeks of relaxation-response training.

More than 2,200 genes were activated differently in the long-time practitioners relative to the controls and 1,561 genes in the short-timers compared to the long-time practitioners. Some 433 of the differently activated genes were shared among short-term and long-term practitioners.

Further genetic analysis revealed changes in cellular metabolism, response to oxidative stress and other processes in both short- and long-term practitioners. All of these processes may contribute to cellular damage stemming from chronic stress.

Another expert had a mixed response to the findings.

Robert Schwartz, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center's Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, noted that the study was relatively small. He also wished that there had been more data on the levels of stress hormones within the control group, for comparison purposes.

However, Schwartz called the study "unique and very exciting. It demonstrates that all these techniques of relaxation response have a biofeedback mechanism that alters gene expression."

He pointed out that the researchers looked at blood cells, which consist largely of immune cells. "You're getting the response most probably in the immune cell population," Schwartz said.

"We all are under stress and have many manifestations of that stress," Benson added. "To adequately protect ourselves against stress, we should use an approach and a technique that we believe evokes the relaxation response 20 minutes, once a day."

-Amanda Gardner

More information

There's more on meditation at the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

SOURCES: Herbert Benson, M.D., president emeritus, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass.; Gerry Leisman, M.D., Ph.D., director, F.R. Carrick Institute for Clinical Ergonomics, Rehabilitation and Applied Neuroscience and professor, neuroscience, Leeds Metropolitan University, U.K. and professor, University of Haifa, Israel; Robert Schwartz, Ph.D., director, Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Houston; PLoS One

Last Updated: July 02, 2008

Copyright 2008 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

More articles at