Even identical twins who are born with the same genome show variations in their health span during the aging process. In addition to our genetic information, many environmental and lifestyle-related factors can influence the aging rate of cells and tissues.
One of the most accurate predictors of the rate of biological aging is the"epigenetic clock" formed by chemical tags (methyl groups) that are added to the DNA molecules. When the ticking of this clock is too fast, the risks of chronic diseases increase.
A new study published in the scientific journal Psychoneuroendocrinology provides new clues to better understand how meditation-based stress reduction practices may promote a healthier aging.
Among the factors known to accelerate the epigenetic clock is cumulative lifetime stress, which highlights the clinical interest of finding methods to help improve stress coping.
Meditation – a practice that cultivates awareness of the present moment – has increasingly become a focus of scientific interest as an effective way to ease emotional stress.
"Although this is a pilot study that requires further validation, we hypothesize from these findings that regular meditation practice may represent a useful preventive strategy for age-related chronic diseases" says Raphäelle Chaix, from CNRS-MNHN in Paris who co-led the study with Perla Kaliman, an associated researcher at UC-Davis and collaborator at the Center for Healthy Minds.
The work is the first to suggest that the long-term practice of meditation may slow down the epigenetic clock in immune cells.