Effects of mindfulness-based interventions on biomarkers in healthy and cancer populations: a systematic review

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017 Feb 23;17(1):125. doi: 10.1186/s12906-017-1638-y.


Background: Only a small number of articles have investigated the relationship between mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) and biomarkers. The aim of this systematic review was to study the effect of MBIs on specific biomarkers (cytokines, neuropeptides and C-reactive protein (CRP)) in both healthy subjects and cancer patients.

Methods: A search was conducted using PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO and the Cochrane library between 1980 and September 2016.

Results: A total of 13 studies with 1110 participants were included. In the healthy population, MBIs had no effect on cytokines, but were found to increase the levels of the neuropeptide insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). With respect to neuropeptide Y, despite the absence of post-intervention differences, MBIs may enhance recovery from stress. With regard to CRP, MBIs could be effective in lower Body Mass Index (BMI) individuals. In cancer patients, MBIs seem to have some effect on cytokine levels, although it was not possible to determine which specific cytokines were affected. One possibility is that MBIs might aid recovery of the immune system, increasing the production of interleukin (IL)-4 and decreasing interferon gamma (IFN-γ).

Conclusions: MBIs may be involved in changes from a depressive/carcinogenic profile to a more normalized one. However, given the complexity and different contexts of the immune system, and the fact that this investigation is still in its preliminary stage, additional randomized controlled trials are needed to further establish the impact of MBI programmes on biomarkers in both clinical and non-clinical populations.

Keywords: Biomarkers; C-reactive protein; Cytokines; Interleukins; MBSR; Mindfulness-based interventions; Neuropeptides.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cytokines
  • Neuropeptides
  • C-Reactive Protein