Mindfulness Reduces Inflammation

A new study finds a link between mindfulness meditation and the reduction of a key biomarker of inflammation in the body. This reduction was not found in people who merely rested the same amount of time.

From the article:

“We’ve now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,” said lead researcher David Creswell from Carnegie Mellon University.

To figure this out, the team recruited 35 unemployed, high-stress adults, and sent them on a random three-day retreat – one that either taught them mindfulness meditation, or one that simply helped them relax, without any focus on mindfulness.

Brain scans before and after the retreat revealed that the brains of the people who’d completed the mindfulness retreat developed increased functional connectivity – that means the brain cells in regions involved in attention and executive control were working together better than they were before the retreat. These changes weren’t seen in the people who’d simply gone away to relax.

Even more impressive, when the researchers looked at blood samples taken four months after the retreats, the mindfulness meditation group had reduced levels of Interleukin-6 – a biomarker that can indicate unhealthy levels of inflammation in the body. Again, the relaxation group didn’t get this benefit.

If confirmed by further studies, the results suggest that changes in brain connectivity brought about by meditation could actually be lowering the volunteers’ risk of inflammation-related disease, even four months on.

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photo by Katy Kildee

 

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