It seems like more and more confirmation just keeps on coming out for the alternative healing community! For the first time, researchers have shown that practicing mindfulness meditation or being involved in a support group has a positive physical impact at the cellular level in breast cancer survivors.
A small research group in the University of Calgary Department of Oncology demonstrated that telomeres — proteins at the end of chromosomes — maintain their length in breast cancer survivors who practice meditation, while they shorten in comparison groups without any intervention. You read their study here.
Granted, telomeres aren’t totally understood, but it’s generally believed that shortened telomeres lead to several disease states, while longer telomeres protect against many forms of disease.
“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology,” says Dr. Linda E. Carlson, PhD, principal investigator and director of research in the Psychosocial Resources Department at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
“It was surprising that we could see any difference in telomere length at all over the three-month period studied,” says Dr. Carlson, who is also a U of C professor in the Faculty of Arts and the Cumming School of Medicine, and a member of the Southern Alberta Cancer Institute. “Further research is needed to better quantify these potential health benefits, but this is an exciting discovery that provides encouraging news.”
Although this is pretty exciting research, it’s still not known whether these benefits will be long-term or what’s causing this biological effect. Further research is now needed to find out whether these results are replicable across a larger number of participants, and what they mean for our health long-term.
But it’s a pretty huge first step towards understanding more about how our mental state affects our health. And it’s part of a growing body of research out there – a separate group of Italian scientists published in PLOS ONE a few weeks ago also showed that mindfulness training can change the structure of our brains.
Of course for many believers in meditation, this discovery probably isn’t that exciting. Research back in the ’80s had suggested that cancer patients who join support groups are more likely to survive.
Pretty cool right???