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Keeping Zen might ease your pain, study shows

Melani Litwack

March, 2010

A Université de Montréal study has shown that Zen meditation has a surprising effect on the part of the brain that regulates pain and emotions, Agence France-Presse reports.

Researchers have discovered Zen practitioners show significant reinforcement in a central area of the brain known as the anterior cingulate.

“Through training, Zen meditators appear to thicken certain areas of their cortex and this appears to underlie their lower sensitivity to pain,” said lead author Joshua Grant.

Further pain reduction seemed to come from controlled breathing, with the practitioners averaging three breaths less per minute than their non-Zen counterparts.

The study was published in Emotion, a special issued by the American Psychological Association journal.

“Slower breathing certainly coincided with reduced pain and may influence pain by keeping the body in a relaxed state,” Grant said in the earlier study, which showed an impressive 18-per-cent increase in tolerance for the Zen-ites.

Cut the fat

A recent U.S. study shows that post-menopausal women with high-fat diets are 44 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

“It’s a tremendous increase that is potentially avoidable,” said Dr. Emil Matarese of St. Mary Medical Centre in Langhorne, Penn. “What’s bad for the heart is bad for the brain.”

The largest study of its kind, it involved 87,230 participants between the ages of 50 to 79 and looked at all types of fat.

Medication use, smoking and exercise were also considered.

Trans fat intake was another culprit, raising stroke risk by 30 per cent. This fat, found in such items as margarine, baked goods and fried foods, calls for extra vigilance when reading labels. Healthy fats can be found in fish, certain oils and nuts.



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