The potential positive epigenetic effects of various mind-body therapies (MBTs): a narrative review

Author: Simran Kripalani1, Basant Pradhan2, Kelly L Gilrain3
1 Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ, USA.
2 Neuromodulation and Integrative Psychiatry (NIP), Cooper University Hospital, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ, USA.
3 Division of Behavioral Medicine, Cooper University Hospital, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Complement Integr Med
Date published: 2021 Jun 22
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1515/jcim-2021-0039. , Word Count: 251

Mind-Body Therapies (MBTs), such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and tai-chi, are said to improve quality of life by contributing to positive thinking and reducing overall distress. MBTs not only play a role in reducing stress and anxiety, but they are also found to epigenetically affect genes and other areas in our genomes that are implicated in inflammation, stress, and distress. This review analyzes the role of MBTs in reducing the epigenetic changes as reported in five previously conducted controlled studies found in the NCBI PubMed database. The methylation of the tumor necrosis factor gene, implicated in psychological distress, was shown to significantly decrease for the women who performed yoga. For people who took part in mindfulness meditation, there was a significant alteration in a variety of modifications of histone deacetylase enzymes as well as their expression patterns when compared to the control group. Other studies found that long-term meditators had slower biomarkers of aging, known as epigenetic clocks, and methylation in genes associated with immune cell metabolism and inflammation. Different genomic regions known as CpG dinucleotide sites ("CpG islands") were also found to be epigenetically altered in participants of tai-chi. These controlled studies were promising evidence on the potential of MBTs to affect the epigenetics of an individual. This information will be useful in diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative measures, and can be an addition to western medicine, in a way that is more holistic and beneficial to the individual.

Keywords: epigenetics; mind-body therapy; mindfulness meditation; tai-chi; yoga.

PMID: 34463076 DOI: 10.1515/jcim-2021-0039