Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, San Francisco, link positive psychological changes during meditation training to higher activity of an enzyme important for cell health called telomerase.
The study, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, finds people who practice meditation show the greatest improvement on various psychological measures had the highest levels of telomerase.
"The take-home message from this work is not that meditation directly increases telomerase activity and therefore a person's health and longevity," Clifford Saron of Davis said in a statement. "Rather, meditation may improve a person's psychological well-being and in turn these changes are related to telomerase activity in immune cells, which has the potential to promote longevity in those cells. Activities that increase a person's sense of well-being may have a profound effect on the most fundamental aspects of their physiology."
Telomeres are sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes which can shorten each time a cell divides. When telomeres drop below a critical length, the cell no longer divides properly and dies. However, the enzyme telomerase can rebuild and lengthen telomeres, the researchers say.