If you’ve ever read the label on an anti-wrinkle cream, you’ve probably heard of telomerase. It’s an enzyme that looks after the long-term health of your cells and is found in many expensive lotions. Well, now a study from the University of California has found that meditation increases telomerase activity too.
Telomeres are structures at the end of chromosomes, sometimes envisaged as the equivalent of the cap on the end of a shoelace. They get shorter each time a cell divides and when they drop below a specific length, that cell can no longer divide and dies. By maintaining telomere levels or promoting their activity, it’s possible to slow down cell loss. It’s this cell loss that causes wrinkling and other signs of ageing.
The researchers believe that this beneficial side effect of meditation is down to the reduced stress that practitioners feel. They base this theory on the fact that those study participants who showed the highest levels of telomerase activity were also those who showed the greatest improvement in terms of positive psychological changes.
So while it’s tempting to think meditation could help keep you younger, in fact it’s psychological wellbeing that helps keep you younger. If meditation makes you feel good, de-stressing you and giving you a general sense of wellbeing, then it may also increase your telomerase activity. But if gardening or painting gives you a similar sense of wellbeing, it may well be just as effective.
First published November 10, 2010