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Posts tagged ‘Harvard Medical School’

Meditation Helps Immune System

From The Telegraph

7:12AM GMT 01 Nov 2011

Meditation improves the immune system, reduces blood pressure and even sharpens the mind, according to research.

The practice – an essential part of Buddhist and Indian Yoga traditions – has entered the mainstream as people try to find ways to combat stress and improve their quality of life.

Now new research suggests that mindfulness meditation can have benefits for health and performance, including improved immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhanced cognitive function.

The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, draws on existing scientific literature to attempt to explain the positive effects.

The goal of this work, according to author Britta Hazel, of Justus Liebig University and Harvard Medical School, is to “unveil the conceptual and mechanistic complexity of mindfulness, providing the big picture by arranging many findings like the pieces of a mosaic.”

The authors specifically identify four key components of “mindfulness” – the state of meditation – that may account for its effects: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and sense of self. Together, these help us deal with the effects of stress.

Dr Hazel said the components are closely intertwined so an improvement in attention regulation, for example, may improve our awareness of our physiological state. Body awareness, in turn, helps us to recognise the emotions we are experiencing.

She said: “Understanding the relationships between these components, and the brain mechanisms that underlie them, will allow clinicians to better tailor mindfulness interventions for their patients.”

However, the framework underscores the point that mindfulness is not a vague cure-all. Effective mindfulness meditation requires training and practice and it has distinct measurable effects on our subjective experiences, our behavior, and our brain function.

Dr Hazel said: “We hope that further research on this topic will enable a much broader spectrum of individuals to utilize mindfulness meditation as a versatile tool to facilitate change both in psychotherapy and in everyday life.”

Read complete story, with related articles at The Telegraph.

Chocolate = Love & Health

Written for Valentine’s Day issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine.

It’s widely known that dark chocolate, in particular, is good for our emotional and physical health. Eating dark chocolate makes people happy, researchers have learned, because it contains phenylethylamine, the same nurturing hormone triggered by the brain when we fall in love. It’s no wonder that Madame du Barry and Giacomo Casanova both believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac. Further, according to the California Academy of Sciences, the theobromine in chocolate acts as a myocardial stimulant, dilator of coronary arteries and smooth muscle relaxant, all inducing good feelings.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine recently reported in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that subjects who consistently consumed dark chocolate showed a 40 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction and stroke than those who did not.

A study published in the European Heart Journal that tracked almost 20,000 people for 10 years found that people who ate about 7 grams of dark chocolate per day had lower blood pressure and 39 percent less risk of experiencing a stroke or heart attack, compared to those who ate an average of 1.7 grams daily.

Scientists have learned that cocoa powder and chocolate contain rich sources of polyphenol antioxidants, the same beneficial compounds found in red wine and many fruits and vegetables that help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Professor Frank Ruschitzka, head of cardiology at University Hospital, in Zurich, Switzerland, comments: “Basic science has demonstrated quite convincingly that dark chocolate, particularly with a cocoa content of at least 70 percent, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet [appropriate blood clotting] function.”

Chocolate lovers also will be glad to know that dark chocolate contains more antioxidants per 3.5 ounces than prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, plums, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries, onions, corn or eggplant.

See more, including 4 recipes for Valentine’s Day at Natural Awakenings.

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