Jamerson, K., et al. (2017). Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk. Journal of the American Heart Association. Vol. 6, no. 10,
From the Abstract. Despite numerous advances in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Novel and inexpensive interventions that can contribute to the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease are of interest. Numerous studies have reported on the benefits of meditation. …
Neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies demonstrate that meditation can have long‐standing effects on the brain, which provide some biological plausibility for beneficial consequences on the physiological basal state and on cardiovascular risk. Studies of the effects of meditation on cardiovascular risk have included those investigating physiological response to stress, smoking cessation, blood pressure reduction, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, endothelial function, inducible myocardial ischemia, and primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. …
Overall, studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, although the overall quality and, in some cases, quantity of study data are modest. Given the low costs and low risks of this intervention, meditation may be considered as an adjunct to guideline‐directed cardiovascular risk reduction by those interested in this lifestyle modification, with the understanding that the benefits of such intervention remain to be better established.
Ortiz, Robin, and Erica M. Sibinga. “The Role of Mindfulness in Reducing the Adverse Effects of Childhood Stress and Trauma.” Children, vol. 4, no. 3, 2017, pp. 16. Full text.
Abstract. Research suggests that many children are exposed to adverse experiences in childhood. Such adverse childhood exposures may result in stress and trauma, which are associated with increased morbidity and mortality into adulthood.
In general populations and trauma-exposed adults, mindfulness interventions have demonstrated reduced depression and anxiety, reduced trauma-related symptoms, enhanced coping and mood, and improved quality of life. Studies in children and youth also demonstrate that mindfulness interventions improve mental, behavioral, and physical outcomes.
Taken together, this research suggests that high-quality, structured mindfulness instruction may mitigate the negative effects of stress and trauma related to adverse childhood exposures, improving short- and long-term outcomes, and potentially reducing poor health outcomes in adulthood. Future work is needed to optimize implementation of youth-based mindfulness programs and to study long-term outcomes into adulthood.
Tang, Y. Y., Hölzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16, 213–225. doi:10.1038/nrn3916. Abstract (including 180 references). Full text at lead author’s website.
Research over the past two decades broadly supports the claim that mindfulness meditation — practiced widely for the reduction of stress and promotion of health — exerts beneficial effects on physical and mental health, and cognitive performance. Recent neuroimaging studies have begun to uncover the brain areas and networks that mediate these positive effects.
However, the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear, and it is apparent that more methodologically rigorous studies are required if we are to gain a full understanding of the neuronal and molecular bases of the changes in the brain that accompany mindfulness meditation.
Goyal, M., et al. (2014). Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being. Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 124. Full text.
Objective: Meditation, a mind-body method, employs a variety of techniques designed to facilitate the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. An increasing number of patients are using meditation programs despite uncertainty about the evidence supporting the health benefits of meditation. We aimed to determine the efficacy and safety of meditation programs on stress-related outcomes (e.g., anxiety, depression, stress, distress, well-being, positive mood, quality of life, attention, health-related behaviors affected by stress, pain, and weight) compared with an active control in diverse adult clinical populations.
Conclusions: Meditation programs, in particular mindfulness programs, reduce multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health as well as stress-related behavioral outcomes.
Corsica, J., et al. (2014). Development of a novel mindfulness and behavioral intervention for stress-eating: A comparative pilot study. Eating Behaviors. In-press. Abstract.
Stress-related eating is increasingly cited as a difficulty in managing healthy eating behaviors and weight. However few interventions have been designed to specifically target stress-related eating. In addition, the optimal target of such an intervention is unclear, as the target might be conceptualized as overall stress reduction or changing emotional eating-related thoughts and behaviors.
This pilot study compared the effects of three interventions targeting those components individually and in combination on stress-related eating, perceived stress, and weight loss to determine whether the two intervention components are effective alone or are more effective when combined. Fifty-three overweight participants (98% female) who reported elevated levels of stress and stress-eating and were at risk for obesity were randomly assigned to one of three six- week interventions: A modified mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention, a cognitive behavioral stress-eating intervention (SEI), and a combined intervention that included all MBSR and SEI components.
All three interventions significantly reduced perceived stress and stress-eating, but the combination intervention resulted in greater reductions and also produced a moderate effect on short term weight loss. Benefits persisted at six week follow-up. The pattern of results preliminarily suggests that the combination intervention (MBSR + SEI) may yield promise in the treatment of stress-related eating.
Chaoul, A., et al. (2014). An Analysis of Meditation Consultations in an Integrative Oncology Outpatient Clinic. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5), A86-A86.
From the Abstract. The majority of cancer patients use some complementary medicine modality. Mind-body practices, and especially meditation, are amongst the most utilized. Research shows that they help cancer patients manage psychological distress and control symptoms such as pain, nausea, and sleep disturbances. However, the effects of a single meditation session on self-reported symptoms, including physical, psychological and symptom distress in an outpatient setting, are largely unknown.
All patients [received] an individual meditation consultation (60 minute initial visits, and 30 minute follow-up visits). Our analysis included 81 meditation visits for 121 participants over 32 months. The [results] revealed a significant reduction from pre- to post-meditation session in physical, psychological, and symptom distress component scores. The greatest mean reductions for individual symptoms were for: Anxiety, Fatigue, Distress, Well Being, Sleep, and Pain; all changes reaching statistically and clinically significant thresholds.
Further research with a larger sample size is needed to better understand the symptoms that meditation can help control and the frequency of self-practice outside of the clinic to help maintain the long-term benefits.
Gilbert, A., et al. (2014). A Randomized Trial Comparing a Brief Meditation Retreat to a Vacation: Effects on Daily Well-Being. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(5), A92-A92.
From the Abstract. Research on brief meditation retreats shows psychological benefits. Most studies utilize at-home control groups, immersed in work and life. A major criticism is the extent to which the benefits result from meditation or from being away from their typical lives and relaxing elsewhere – “the vacation effect”. Here, we examined changes in daily wellbeing and stressful experiences during a 5-day resort stay in a group of non-meditators randomized to attend meditation and yoga training or to relax at the resort.
We randomized 66 eligible women, aged 31 to 60, with no meditation experience into a resort control or a meditation retreat group (The Chopra Center), staying at the same location, given the same diet, had blood draws on Day 1 and 5 of the study, and had lectures on health (resort) or meditation, yoga, awareness and self-reflection (retreat). Nightly, end-of day diaries were completed and assessed affect, stressful event occurrence and reactivity. Stressful events were objectively rated for severity.
Positive affect significantly increased and negative affect decreased the first to last day of the study in the retreat group, but not in the control group. Both groups felt less ‘stressed’ by the day’s most significant stressor at the end, and this is despite no change in rater-coded severity Only retreat women reported significantly greater control over the stressor, and all participants reported decreased rumination from first to last day, with more pronounced changes in retreatants. These findings suggest benefits to retreat over vacation in promoting a more resilient response to daily stressors and positive affect.