Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • The Biologic & Genetic impact of a Meditation Retreat vs. a Resort Vacation
    A small study (2016) from Mount Sinai, the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School measured the “resort vacation effect” compared with the “meditation effect.” Studying female participants over a 6-day stay at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, half experienced a regular resort vacation there, while half also did a daily meditation program. Findings: both groups showed significant, immediate changes in genetic expression associated with stress and immune pathways – while the meditation retreat, for those who already meditated regularly, was also associated with antiviral activity. And the molecular signature of long-term meditators was distinct from the non-meditating vacationers. 
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  • Meditation Program Lowered Anxiety, Stress & Cortisol Levels in Elementary School Children 
    A small South Korean study (2016) showed that 8 weeks of a school-based meditation program (using mind subtraction meditation) led to significantly lower depression, social anxiety, stress and salivary cortisol levels in elementary school children. 
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  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Powerful at Reducing Relapses of Depression 
    An Oxford University meta-analysis of nine randomized trials in Europe and North America (2016) found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MCBT) was more effective at reducing relapses of depression (over a 60-week follow-up period) than maintenance antidepressant medication. Also, mindfulness therapy was found to be especially effective for people with more severe depressive symptoms. Access this study on mindfulness
  • Mindfulness Outperformed Usual Care/Painkillers for Chronic Lower Back Pain
    A randomized clinical trial (year 2016 – 342 adults) from University of Washington, Seattle researchers found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (8 weeks of once-a-week training in mindfulness meditation and yoga) resulted in significantly greater improvement in back pain and functional limitations at 26 weeks than usual care (prescription opioids, etc.). 44% of participants doing the meditation/yoga training reported meaningful pain reduction vs. 27% of those undergoing usual care/prescription painkillers, etc. Access this study on meditation & mindfulness
  • Mindfulness Meditation Changes Both Brain and Body
    For the first time, a study (from Carnegie Mellon University, 2016) showed that mindfulness meditation, unlike a placebo, changes both the brains and bodies of regular people (not just long-time meditators). The study indicated that a few days of meditation increased activity in the parts of the brain that process stress-related reactions and other areas related to focus and calm. And the trial meditators also saw much lower levels of unhealthy inflammation markers in their blood – even months later.
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  • Johns Hopkins Meta-Review: Meditation Can Lead to Moderate Reduction in Anxiety, Deprression
    A 2014 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine meta-review (47 clinical trials, 3,515 subjects) found that an eight-week mindfulness meditation program led to a moderate improvement in anxiety, depression and pain for participants – and in studies that tracked people for six months, improvements continued. But they discovered low evidence of improvement in stress and quality of life, and argued there was too little clinical info to determine meditation’s impact on insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 
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  • Harvard: Meditation May Have Important Health Implications
    A Harvard Medical School study (2013, 52 subjects) used advanced genomic testing to analyze transcriptional changes that happened during Relaxation Response (RR) practice (including mindfulness meditation) – for both RR veterans and novices. The complex findings include that just one session of RR/mindfulness meditation caused rapid, enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways. The researchers concluded that RR/mindfulness practice, by promoting “mitochondrial resiliency,” may have diverse, important health implications. 
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