A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Mindfulness Based Interventions on Heart Rate Variability and Inflammatory Markers

J Clin Med. 2019 Oct 7;8(10):1638. doi: 10.3390/jcm8101638.


Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBIs) have recently been increasingly used in clinical settings, and research regarding their effects on health has grown rapidly. However, with regard to the physiological effects of mindfulness practices, studies have reported associations that vary in strength and direction. Therefore, in this systematic review and meta-analysis, we aimed to systematically identify, appraise, and summarize the existing data from randomized and non-randomized controlled trials that examine physiological effects of the standardized MBIs by focusing on pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein, and commonly used heart rate variability parameters. The following electronic databases were searched: MEDLINE (via Ovid), PsychINFO (via Ovid), PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE, CINAHL, ProQuest (Dissertations and Theses), and ClinicalTrails.gov. The systematic review identified 10 studies to be included in the meta-analysis, comprising in total 607 participants. The meta-analysis ended up with mixed and inconclusive results. This was assumedly due to the small number of the original studies and, in particular, to the lack of large, rigorously conducted RCTs. Therefore, the current meta-analysis highlights the necessity of larger, more rigorously conducted RCTs on physiological outcomes with standardized MBIs being compared to various forms of active controls, and with more long-term follow-ups.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; Interleukins; Mindfulness Based Interventions; heart rate variability; meta-analysis.

Publication types

  • Review