Objective: Oxidative stress or free radical activity may contribute to the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis and other chronic diseases associated with aging. Because psychosocial stress has been shown to increase oxidative stress, we conducted an exploratory study to investigate the effects of stress reduction with the Transcendental Meditation program on serum lipid peroxide levels in elderly subjects.
Method: Forty-one normally healthy subjects (aged 56 to 74 years, average 67 years) were recruited from the same Midwest city. Eighteen were long-term practitioners of the TM program (average 16.5 years). Twenty-three controls were not practicing a formal stress management technique. Venous blood samples were analyzed for lipid peroxides by the TBARS assay. A dietary questionnaire was used to assess fat intake, red meat consumption, antioxidant vitamin supplementation, and smoking. Differences between groups and subgroups were analyzed by t test, and correlations.
Results: Significantly lower serum levels of lipid peroxides were found in the TM practitioners compared with controls (-15%, p = .026). No significant differences were found between groups on smoking, fat intake, or vitamin supplementation. TM practitioners also had lower red meat consumption but matched subgroup analysis and partial correlations did not confirm a relationship between red meat intake and lipid peroxide levels.
Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that lower serum lipid peroxide levels may be associated with stress reduction using the Transcendental Meditation technique. Prospective controlled trials are needed to confirm that this effect is because of TM practice rather than other lifestyle factors, such as diet.