31 October 2011

Ian Gawler Blog: Telomeres, meditation and length of life.

If meditation can lengthen your telomeres, does this mean it lengthens your life? A major new study from America, involving Australian Noble Laureate Prof Elizabeth Blackburn, is one of a number of recent studies that tantalisingly suggests this may well be so.

What then are telomeres? Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of all our chromosomes that tend to become damaged and shorten each time one of our cells divide. With time and aging, the telomere length eventually drops below a critical length and then that cell can no longer divide properly and its death follows.

Telomerase is an enzyme that can rebuild and lengthen telomeres. Other research indicates that telomerase activity may be linked with psychological stress and physical health.

This new study, conducted by a big team at UC Davis and led by Tonya Jacobs and Clifford Saron, measured telomerase activity in the participants of a three month, intensive meditation retreat. Known as the Shamatha project, and with the retreat itself led by the renowned B Alan Wallace, participants meditated in group sessions twice daily, and in individual practice for six hours each day.

The most comprehensive scientific study of a meditation retreat yet conducted, there have been some very interesting findings. Firstly, telomerase activity was 30% higher in those on the retreat compared to their matched controls. There was a positive relationship between these telomerase changes and positive psychological changes.

Saron speaking with the due caution of a scientist says “ The take home message from this work is not that meditation directly increases telomerase activity and therefore a person’s health and longevity. Rather, meditation may improve a person’s psychological wellbeing and in turn these changes are related to telomerase activity in cells, which have the potential to promote longevity in those cells”.

Jacobs commented “this work is the first to show a relation between positive psychological change and telomerase activity.”

Having said that, some readers of this blog will be aware that Dean Ornish showed with his research into the effects of a lifestyle based approach for men with early prostate cancer, that as well as reducing PSA activity and significantly reducing the need for more major medical treatment, the lifestyle approach significantly increased the length of the men’s telomeres. It is of note that Ornish’s approach is very similar to the one set out in “You Can Conquer Cancer” and taught at the Gawler Foundation.

Also, this study may be the start to being able to scientifically understand the evidence from other observational studies that have associated meditation with increased physiological health and longevity.

Clearly there is the need for more study in this exciting field and how good it would be if some of the new research was funded and conducted here in Australia where we have such a rich tradition of the practice of therapeutic meditation.


MINDBODY MASTERY:  My new on-line 8 wk meditation based mind training program is due for release on November 24th. We are in the final stages of preparing the rather sophisticated website and system to deliver the program, along with the 6 mths of integrated support which includes email and SMS reminders etc.

A number of people have enquired re the cost. We are keen to make the program readily accessible and so the whole thing is costed at $108, although to members of my database and blog there will be a 15% discount, making the cost to you $91.80. Hopefully this is very good value for money and reasonable affordable. The program could make great Christmas presents.

The Gawler Foundation's Annual Conference Nov 19 & 20 The Hilton, Melbourne

This is a great conference that has been presented annually since 1984. There is an excellent line-up of speakers and the chance to spend a weekend amongst a diverse group of like minded people. The lunches provided are a vegetarian highlight and people seem to always leave inspired, informed and thoroughly satisfied with the event. I am presenting a Keynote  and a Workshop, so hope to see many old faces (even if they are young ones) and meet new people. It is wise to book soon as the workshops are filling.

You Can Conquer Cancer: I have Robina Courtin helping me currently to edit the almost fully rewritten new edition of my cancer book. First published in 1984, it has been revised twice in recent years, but this is its first really major rewrite and it will probably be released mid next year. Be reassured the current one remains very useful in my opinion. It is not that the basic information is being changed; it is being updated and modernised. It is 27 years old after all. Maybe its telomeres need a bit of a revamp!


RELATED BLOG  Mindbody Mastery

BOOKS Meditation – an In-depth Guide: Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

               The Mind that Changes Everything: Ian Gawler

              You Can Conquer Cancer: Ian Gawler

CDs      The Gawler Cancer Program: Ian Gawler

PROGRAMS: The Gawler Foundation

RESEARCH:  U C Davis: Centre for Mind and Brain
                         The Shamatha Project

                         Dean Ornish and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute

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