How Meditation and Yoga Can Slow Cellular Aging and Increase BDNF
Getting older leads to the accumulation of biological stress in our bodies. This stress accumulation is most likely the major driving force behind age-related decreases in Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
Fortunately, you have several tools at your disposal when it comes to fighting this cellular stress of aging and the resultant decreases in BDNF.
Recently, the results from an exploratory study looking at the impact of yoga and meditation on markers of cellular aging was published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. The results were very promising.
What is Cellular Aging?
Currently, scientists do not have gold standard tests for measuring healthy aging in people. In place of this, researchers will often measure a handful of compounds or cellular markers that are responsible for
healthy cellular activity:
- telomere length
or cellular decay:
- DNA damage
- stress hormone levels
- oxidative stress
- accelerated chromosome deterioration
All of these markers taken together represent how a cell is aging, which is then expanded to the body as a whole (not an exact science, but currently the best we have to work with).
Meditation and Yoga As Tools for Slowing the Aging Process
In this study, 96 people were taken through a 12 week intensive yoga and meditation program. The program focused on physical yoga postures (called Asanas, what most people think about when they think of *yoga*), breathing exercises, and meditation. The study participants did a mixture of these 3 practices (physical, breathing, meditation) for 90 minutes, 5 days a week.
At the end of the 12 week study, the participants had lower levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), markers of DNA damage (8OHH2dG), telomerase activity (an enzyme that 'eats' away at the protective caps on your chromosomes, which can lead to premature cell death), the stress hormone cortisol, and the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. The study participants also experienced increases in BDNF and the potentially 'anti-aging' class of proteins called sirtuins.
Meditation and Yoga Increase BDNF
When I look at the results of this study, I see two things at play. The intensive yoga and meditation practices allowed for the reduction of processes that accelerate cellular aging. They were able to buffer against the pro-aging features of modern life - yielding reductions in markers of inflammation and stress.
Once this oxidative pressure was removed from the study participants’ bodies, they were able to then experience increases in proteins that help slow the aging process - BDNF and sirtuins. I see this as a great biological example of how your body doesn't like to drive with a foot on the gas and a foot on the break.
- Reduce stress and oxidation = take your foot off the break.
- Allowing you to then put it on the gas = increasing BDNF and sirtuins; two compounds that promote neuron and mitochondrial health.
This study emphasizes the importance of daily deliberate stress reduction to allow your body to fight against biological stresses that accelerate cellular aging.
Neuro Coffee as an Adjunct Therapy to Meditation and Yoga's Effects on Cellular Aging
Neuro Coffee's unique ability to increase BDNF, even without aggressive stress reduction practices like those those in this study, makes it a great adjunct daily strategy for health. You aren't always going to be able to effectively combat the daily barrage of oxidative stress on your body (which leads to a decrease in your body's ability to properly care for neurons).
Neuro Coffee is also a great adjunct to meditation and yoga practices used in this study, or in the learn-coffee-relax process that is popular amongst Neuro Coffee users. Aside from increasing BDNF, coffee itself is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet. These antioxidants can be powerful adjuncts to the fight against cellular aging.