We often hear that meditation can help one manage stress and improve health, but for some people, this is difficult to accept. In medicine, we often fall into a trap of only measuring our health through test results. We need concrete evidence to prove that something is helping. It is often difficult to measure the powerful health benefits of meditation and mindfulness with empirical data. Researchers at the University of California – Davis and the University of California – San Francisco were able to measure telomerase activity and showed that it increases with meditation.
Telomerase is an enzyme that rebuilds and lengthens telomeres. Telomeres are DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes that protect them from damage. Telomeres become shorter over the life of a cell, and once they drop below a critically short length, the cell dies. When cells die, tissue becomes damaged and signs of aging develop. Telomeres naturally shorten throughout the life of a cell, however, there are things that speed up the process of telomere shortening, such as unhealthy diets, toxins, and stress. Through meditation, we protect telomeres by increasing telomerase activity. Telomere length is increased, or the rate or telomere shortening is slowed. This improves cellular health and longevity, which ultimately improves one’s over health and slows aging.