Mind-body interventions such as meditation, yoga*, and tai chi can reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause ill-health and depression, according to a study by scientists at the universities of Coventry and Radboud. When a person is exposed to a stressful event, their sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response) is triggered, which increases production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). That molecule then activates genes to produce proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at the cellular level, affecting the body, brain, and immune system. That’s useful as a short-lived fight-or-flight reaction. However, if persistent, it leads to a higher risk of cancer, accelerated aging, and psychiatric disorders like depression. But in a paper published June 16, 2017 in the open-access journal Frontiers in Immunology, the researchers reveal findings of 18 studies (featuring 846 participants over 11 years) indicating that people who practice mind-body interventions exhibit the opposite effect. They showed a decrease in production of NF-kB and cytokines — reducing the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern and the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.
David Gorski, MD, PhD, has published a critique of this study here. (Lead author Ivana Burić has replied in the comments below.) In addition to stress effects, increased sitting is known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and death from all causes. But regular two-minute brisk walks every 30 minutes (in addition to daily 30-minute walks) significantly reduce levels of triglyceride (lipid, or fatty acid) levels that lead to clogged arteries, researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago report in a paper published June 19, 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology.