Doctor's Note

Here’s a link to the backgrounder video that presents the original Ornish study:  Research Into Reversing Aging. I’ll cover the comparable effects of diet and exercise in my next video Telomeres - Cap It All Off with Diet.

I have a few videos on using aromatherapy and other modalities to help deal with stress:

For life extension in general, see:

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  • What about the effect of sleep on cellular aging?

    • Youcef

      It could be that both meditation and stress affect primarily sleep, and that sleep in turn affects telomeres.

  • Clifford Tindall

    Amazing how this can be empirically observed.

  • Jane’s Addiction

    I love this. I try to get some meditation in at least once a week, but I just might boost that to once a day. I have CFS so everything’s more complicated, and sometimes even meditation can be taxing on my nervous system.
    I’m totally in favor of meditation, and have been ever since the science to support it started pouring in, but I’m worried about the average god-fearing American who is afraid that meditation is a component of Buddhism or some other religion that they consider to be a false or wicked religion. It may sound funny, but there are people out there who think meditation is of the devil. How can we reach those people on the benefits of meditation? They deserve the help that meditation brings as much as anybody else does.

    • God Trusting

      “average god-fearing American” If they really are god-fearing they can or should be meditating on His word and trusting in Him so stress should not be a big factor in their lives.

      • Sally Buchanan

        I am all of those things and yet stress is a big factor. God said He will help us deal w/ our fear/stress, not that we wouldn’t ever feel it…

        • Trusting

          Did not mean to imply that there wouldn’t still be stress just that trust in Him helps us deal with what ever happens in life.

    • Cátia Borges

      Meditation is a component of many religions including Christianity, Buddhism is the religion (I don’t consider Buddhism a religion but a philosophy of life, the term Buddhist was created by western society) that has study meditation for a long time and has developed very good techniques that are even used in modern psychology.

      • André

        “Meditation” was also a word imposed on Buddhism by Christian-oriented European scholars. It is only an approximation of the Sanskrit words “dhyana” (concentration) and “bhavana” (mental cultivation).
        Many people refer to Buddhism as “a philosophy” because it’s not a god-based religion. What other “philosophies” de-emphasize intellectualism, give rigorous daily practice primacy, alter brain structure and chemistry, improve health, and have brought practitioners to a state of perceptual transformation that eliminates suffering? How many philosophies are still being practiced today very much as they were 2500 years ago?

    • Buzz

      For people who have religious objections to meditation, I’d suggest that they look into “The Relaxation Response,” a completely and deliberately non-religious technique that a researcher, Dr. Harold Benson developed several years ago.

      • Alastair Leith

        For people who have religious objections to meditation, I’d ask the question which religion objects to right conduct (not harming others) and mastery of the mind?

    • Joseph Gonzales

      Great perspective, Jane’s Addiction! I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer when it comes to interpreting ones “faith”, but I agree with your point that you can certainly have faith and still enjoy meditation, or other non-Western practices for that matter. Dr. Greger has a great video (1) on how tea can be beneficial for improving brain function, like meditation. Furthermore, when looking at some of the research in Integrative Medicine, researchers are finding meditation (2), yoga (3), deep breathing (pranyama) (4), and even music therapy (5) can be helpful for cancer survivors. These are perhaps some ways to reach others about the benefits of meditation.


      Thanks for your post,

    • Dee Me

      Christian form of meditation is prayer and meditation on scriptures especially uplifting scripture so meditation is compatible with Christianity e.g. Psalm 77:12

      • Alastair Leith

        Not the same thing though, real meditation is about quieting the intellectual chat to go to a deeper place, not rumination on scripture or anything else.

  • Beth Jones-Topmiller

    I don’t see the details of the design of the meditation in the study. Does the meditation include deep, relatively slow inhales and exhales of the breath? I use a meditation recording that utilizes deep breathing as well as soft words and music.

  • YOU ARE THE BEST! Glad I can share my family and Well-Being Community with your research!!:) Luz Delia

  • slider1

    Does sleep apnea count as meditation? If so my telomerase are dragging the ground. How do we quantify stress? My business burned down years ago and my thought as it burned was, “When can I start rebuilding?” Someone’s house trailer gets blow away by a storm and they are suicidal. Stress is self induced. Is meditation suppose to calm those who stress out and “overreact” to life’s bumps? I tried meditating once but found myself peeking at others to see if they were really meditating.

    • Cátia Borges

      slider1 meditation isn’t learned in 1 session and there are several meditation techniques, people should learn the ones that they feel most comfortable with. Meditation goal is that you become aware to a point that meditation can be done with your daily activities. Sleep apnea is not meditation, it is a medical condition and you stop breathing during sleep, actually induces a lot of stress and hormonal imbalance.

      • marie

        I think slider1 was being sarcastic about sleep apnea (my husband was diagnosed and treated successfully about 10 yrs ago) and using his comment to both vent and compare/ contrast his response to what could be seen as a very negative, stressful situation and others who may not have his tools, or level of reasoning/ operating to deal with such events as calmly and or constructively. Even Ekhart Tolle teaches we are we are in terms of understanding and awareness and do the the best we can. If you take the time to find out, we all have our cross or burdens to bare in life. Some of us get hit early some late. Some of us are able to learn and grow and cope better from early on, others take more time. Sadly, some are working with other issues like depression that make it harder. It would be interesting to see a study done to show if there is evidence or supporting data for telomere length related not only to stress but to our own personal response to it.

  • ann c. wells

    As a stressed care-giver, I often take what I call “stress naps,” sometimes even in the AM if there as been a challenging care-giving event early in the day. How would that compare with meditation in protecting DNA?

    • marie

      Not sure, but having been a care giver I fully support your naps. Instead of adding the word stress which denotes something negative why not call them “self care” or “oxygen mask” naps? Trust me, it will change how you view them and feel when you wake up. The latter will support your right/ need to take of yourself so you DO have something more to GIVE. Great question, see my question in previous comment as it seems to be on the same line.

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    Show me a pill increasing the lenght of the telomere – it will be a blockbuster! It is already here – within us. Mind over matter.

    • Darryl

      There kinda is one, though it works no better than diet or meditation, and costs a pretty penny.

  • Julot Julott

    Dont forget what you put inside your body is still way more important! ;D

    • truth


  • PsychDoctorate2014

    I am a long term meditator, 20+ years. I am seeing the benefits now in my mental abilities. I have had less of decline in many areas of my life and I am actually aging very well. I would recommend meditation for anyone, I do it as a Zen Buddhist, but it can be adapted to almost any lifestyle and or faith. It has amazing benefits. However, the benefits are extrapolated when you add in exercise as well. After all, you need a great deal of endurance and stamina to sit for a long period of time and exercise gives you that.

  • Youcef

    Very interesting video, thank you very much. A few question come immediately to mind and they are primarily addressed to Dr Greger, and everyone is warmly welcome to answer too.

    1) How about prayer? There’s been interesting work in the past (like the otherwise infamous François Carrel) on scientifically measurable effects of prayer.

    2) Has there been a study to try and see if it’s a side effect of stress (i.e. sleep patterns) that would then affect directly the telomeres activity?
    By analogy, in the case of the link between the decline of IGF-1 and cognitive decline, the link which seemed direct in fact appears to come from the effect of IGF-1 on sleep, and THEN of the effect of sleep on cognitive decline. In short sleep in that case was the central ruler of cognitive decline, not necessarily IGF-1. I wonder if it’s the same for meditation. [1]

    3) There are very many types of meditation, does it also work with all-time, continuous meditation? By continuous meditation I mean consciousness in the present moment (à la Eckhart Tolle) as opposed to practiced in dedicated meditation sessions?

    4) Has these been statistical comparative studies of long-term mediators and comparable non-meditators?

    5) I very much agree meditation can’t harm anyone. In the meantime, it is an aspect far deeper than just a “tool” for some sort of better performance. I can’t say what it is but there is something bothering me with the whole concept of using mediation as a fix or with a purpose. There’s an interesting moral debate there, but that should probably not hold people from going and experimenting with meditation, even if at first it’s with a “selfish” sort of purpose.

    [1] Baker LD, Vitiello MV. Growth Hormone–Releasing Hormone Improves Cognitive Function in Older Adults: Sleep On It—Reply. JAMA Neurol. 2013;70(4):529-530. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.2064

    • Dr Orestes Gutierrez

      For the question on how prayer affects health, I recommend the book by Larry Dossey, M.D., “Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine.” It is loaded with many references and scientific experiments and some of the conclusions are intriguing and provocative.

      For the question on how stress affects telomeres and aging, I recommend the following study:

      In my practice, work related stress causes a lot of detrimental health consequences down stream, but this study is one of the first to show molecular changes associated with premature aging from stress.

      As for the question about the comparison of long term meditators versus novice meditators: yes, there has been a study on this topic. The Harvard Professor Dr. Benson has shown that even novice practitioners can reap immediate benefits from one session of relaxation-response (breathing meditation). Through one session of meditation, a practitioner can alter gene expression that is associated with reduced stress and inflammation. Dr. Benson’s research showed that long term meditators had 2,000 stress reducing gene activated compared to those who do not meditate. The great news is that once novices were taught to meditate for 20 minutes per day for 8 weeks, they had activated 1,500 genes associated with stress reduction!

      As for the question as to whether meditation is helpful when performed as formal sit down practice or informally as a mindfulness throughout the day. The answer is that one session of meditation has beneficial effects immediately during the session and the effects linger throughout the day. Please refer to Dr. Benson’s article for details:

      Also, Harvard neuroscientist Dr Sara Lazar studied 16 participants and it was found that 8 weeks of meditation strengthened the hippocampus, cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum. In this study, the MBSR technique was used which is defined “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness” throughout the day. This study showed that the meditators had larger brains.

      • Alastair Leith

        Larger brains, lol. Intellect, compassion and ethics bare no statistical correlation to brain size BTW ;-)

  • Derrek

    What about fasting and doubt intermittent fasting? Any science on this? I’m vegan but heard it can be beneficial.

  • Priyanka Bahirwani

    Hey I have been practicing meditation since 2011 and it has been extremely beneficial to me. I learnt to meditate from the non for profit organization called Science of Spirituality. They have centers all over the US and their headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois. It was a wonderful technique that I learnt and I would like to share it with anyone who is interested. You can get details here!

  • John Axsom

    MEDITATION is such a vague word. Nobody can really define it. So, when you recommend meditation it’s like recommending eating food. But, nobody tells you which food to eat. There are good foods and bad foods. The human mind is capable of all kinds of mental gymnastics. I think a better word for MEDITATION would be MENTAL TECHNIQUES. But, then again there are all types of mental techniques. Carl Simonton, M.D. Radiologist, did a lot of pioneer work using mental techniques with his patients by having them to visualize their cures. He would give a patient an X-ray picture of the malfunction in their body, then he would give them an X-ray of what that particular body part looks like when it is healed and functioning properly. Sometimes it would just be a “drawing” or some kind of photo. But, the patient had an image to work with and the patient was told to visualize their body part becoming well or healed. He measured success with the number of people made well, and how fast they became well in comparison to groups of people who did NO mental techniques.

    To try and understand the science of MEDITATION, or mental techniques. Somebody should define the various techniques and then begin experiments and double blind studies. Just to say meditation as a generalized word is very inefficient. People might start actually doing some kind of mental technique that might even be harmful to them or impede their healing. So, which mental techniques are healing and which ones are not productive? Don’t count on Big Pharma to sponsor any funding for such a project.

    • Alastair Leith

      That’s usually called visualisation. There are many more significant meditation practices. The Buddha taught several, and that’s why we call him the Buddha, he showed us the path out of suffering, rediscovered as all teaching Buddhas do.

      • John Axsom

        Can you list the different types of meditation or “mental exercises” Mr. Buddha taught. Can you list specifically how he did them, and what the outcomes are. Can you do a double blind study on each technique? Most people who practice “meditation” just say you become relaxed and make your mind go blank so that you can receive a message from “god”. If you do receive thoughts, images, and messages how do you know which “god” it is and is that “god” benevolent, or tricking you, or even maybe plotting against you to undermine your life. In other words, how do you know if you are dealing with an angel or with a demon. In his last dying days, the great Edgar Cayce told his son and those around him that he felt like he had been deceived all of his life, and that he had actually become a channel for demonic possession. You can find this same theme in many people who practice the occultic arts, divination, and even meditation. There are cases where people would practice meditation several hours a day, and then they would eventually become depressed and commit suicide. On the other hand there are a lot of people who never suffer such a fate by practicing meditation. This is why one should always read and learn the PROS and CONS on every subject they entertain in their minds. The good doctor says, here, take this statin drug for your high cholesterol, but he doesn’t explain all of the side effects that many people suffer from taking statin drugs. Some people do not suffer any side effects from statin drugs, but many do.

        • Alastair Leith

          I’m glad I provide you the opportunity for some self expression. good luck.

          • John Axsom

            Thank you for our scientific reply.

          • Alastair Leith

            how does one respond “scientifically” to a tumbling stream of consciousness rant like that? if it’s the scientific verification of the benefits of meditation, well yes hundreds of papers exist and I could point you to a few of them. if it’s the research into brain activities using MRI type technology observing experienced meditators in deep states of meditation that has scientists seeing results that they consider “off the charts” in comparison with their range of data then yes those kinds of studies also exist I’m told. if it’s a way out of suffering and the deathless you seek, you will have to become a super-scientist yourself and examine the mind introspectively and come to a point you can experientially examine the nature of ‘consciousness’ and the cessation of the cycle of cause and effect that keeps us rolling in this world of suffering and to detach from craving and aversion to the point of liberation from the notion of self. you ask about serious things that don’t fit into little boxes.

          • John Axsom

            Let’s just take on specific point and explore it from what I wrote. Edgar Cayce the great American psychic practiced deep meditation everyday. He was an accomplished hypnotist and could put himself into a state of deep self hypnosis rapidly. As a channeler, psychic, and medium, spirits spoke through him voluminous amounts of information on such topics as Atlantis, reincarnation, The Land of Mu, health, future events, and he even diagnosed people and prescribed treatments. His organization the A.R.E. has a dedicated facility to his life and his work. On his death bed he told his son Hugh Lynn Cayce and others that he believed that his life’s work was the result of being tricked and taken over by demonic forces. This is what Edgar said about himself. Do you think Edgar Cayce was tricked and manipulated by demonic forces. Do you think it is possible for those who meditate to be tricked by demonic forces and then have their life energy drained slowly over time, much like a vampire? Is there nothing negative to be said about meditation? Or, do you think meditation is 100 percent positive and there is no down side to it whatsoever?