The Shamatha Project at the University of California/Davis (California, USA) is a comprehensive long-term, control-group study of the effects of meditation training on mind and body. Tonya Jacobs and colleagues used a questionnaire to measure aspects of mindfulness among a group of volunteers before and after an intensive, three-month meditation retreat. They also measured cortisol levels in the volunteers’ saliva. During the retreat, a Buddhist scholar and teacher trained participants in such attentional skills as mindfulness of breathing, observing mental events, and observing the nature of consciousness. Participants also practiced cultivating benevolent mental states, including loving kindness, compassion, empathic joy and equanimity. At an individual level, there was a correlation between a high score for mindfulness and a low score in cortisol both before and after the retreat. Individuals whose mindfulness score increased after the retreat showed a decrease in cortisol. Scores on the mindfulness questionnaire increased from pre- to post-retreat, while levels of cortisol did not change overall. The study authors submit that: “These data suggest a relation between self-reported mindfulness and resting output of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system.”
Jacobs, Tonya L.; Shaver, Phillip R.; Epel, Elissa S.; Zanesco, Anthony P.; Aichele, Stephen R.; Saron, Clifford D.; et al. “Self-Reported Mindfulness and Cortisol During a Shamatha Meditation Retreat.” Health Psychology, Mar. 25, 2013.
Dietary supplementation of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) helps to improve memory and reaction times, among healthy young men and women.
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Tip #145 - Mind the Micronutrient
An essential trace element which is necessary for growth and protein synthesis, selenium acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from free radical damage that may contribute to aging and many age-related diseases. Johns Hopkins University of Public Health (Maryland, USA) researchers studied more than 13,800 subjects for 12 years, and found that a modest selenium level, between 130 and 150 ng/mL, associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Be sure to incorporate selenium-rich foods into your daily diet. Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium. The mineral is also found in organ meats, tuna, seafood, brewer's yeast, fresh garlic, mushrooms, wheat germ, and some whole grains.