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Lifestyle and Well-Being: Potential Epigenetic Benefits of Mindfulness Training, Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

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Enhancing Resilience in Youth

Abstract

Epigenetics is acquiring a central role in twenty-first century medicine, revealing the relationships between individual genetic background and the environment. The somatic inheritability of epigenetic marks through cell division can often explain the long-lasting effects of environmental exposures at the individual level. Moreover, there is increasing evidence in plants, animal models, and humans for the transmission of epigenetic information across several generations, which has developmental and health implications. Importantly for the topic of this book, said epigenetic mechanisms play pivotal roles in the long-lasting consequences of chronic stress and trauma. Specifically, studies on early adversity, early experiences and aging, mindfulness-based interventions, and the impact of nutrition and physical activity on well-being will be revisited in light of new findings in the domain of epigenetics. We are currently starting to discover the intricate networks through which environmental factors and lifestyle can reshape the information contained in our genes, leaving imprints on physical and mental health which, in some circumstances, can be passed through gametes to subsequent generations. Future epigenetic studies involving Mindfulness Based Interventions will require a validation of molecular changes and bioinformatic predictions by exploring associations with specific neurophysiological outcomes in health and disease. Recent advances in epigenetics highlight the need to sensitize medicine and society to the impact of adverse experiences and unhealthy lifestyles on the physical, cognitive, and emotional health of present and future generations. The potential reversibility of acquired biological information and the possibility of modulating the epigenome towards healthier states should guide future research on epigenetics and well-being.

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The author thanks Marta Cosín-Tomás for helpful comments.

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Kaliman, P. (2019). Lifestyle and Well-Being: Potential Epigenetic Benefits of Mindfulness Training, Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. In: Steinebach, C., Langer, Á. (eds) Enhancing Resilience in Youth. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-25513-8_3

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