The study, by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, San Francisco, is the first to link positive well-being to higher telomerase, an enzyme important for the long-term health of cells in the body. Positive psychological changes that occur during meditation training are associated with greater telomerase activity, according to the University of California, Davis-based Shamatha Project.
The project is one of the first long-term, detailed, matched control-group studies of the effects of intensive meditation training on mind and body. The research team measured telomerase activity in participants at the end of a three-month intensive meditation retreat. Telomerase activity was about one-third higher in the white blood cells of participants who had completed the retreat than in a matched group of controls. The enzyme can rebuild and lengthen telomeres, sequences of DNA at the end of chromosomes that tend to get shorter every time a cell divides. When telomeres drop below a critical length, the cell can no longer divide properly and eventually dies. The study was published on October 29 in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.