Background: Meditation-based practices have been suggested to result in many biological benefits which include reduction of attrition of telomeres, the protective nucleotide-protein complexes at termini of eukaryotic chromosomes. This systematic review evaluated the effects of meditation on telomere length (TL) in healthy adults.
Methods: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies conducted to determine the effects of meditation on TL in healthy individuals, published up to July 2020 were retrieved by searching seven electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL and Google Scholar). The methodological quality of RCTs and observational studies was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool and Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklist, respectively. The data was synthesized narratively and the effect estimates of TL in the RCTs were synthesized using alternative methods as a meta-analysis was not conducted. The certainty of evidence was classified according to the GRADE system.
Results: A total of 1740 articles were screened. Five studies comprising two RCTs and three case-control studies (CCS) were included in the final review based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The combined sample consisted of 615 participants with 41.7% males. Average age of participants was 47.7 years. One CCS and one RCT reported significant beneficial effects of meditation on TL while the two remaining CCS and the RCT showed positive effects of meditation on TL which were not significant. For all CCS and one RCT, the methodological quality was high while the remaining RCT was of moderate quality. The quality of evidence for the primary outcome was moderate in RCTs.
Conclusion: The effect of meditation on TL per se is still unclear. Strictly designed and well-reported RCTs with larger sample sizes are required to provide evidence of higher quality.
Systematic review registration: The protocol of this review was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) database (registration number: CRD42020153977 ).
Keywords: Case-control studies; Healthy participants; Meditation; Randomized controlled trials; Systematic review; Telomere length.