7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain

The meditation-and-the-brain research has been rolling in steadily for a number of years now, with new studies coming out just about every week to illustrate some new benefit of meditation. Or, rather, some ancient benefit that is just now being confirmed with fMRI or EEG. The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Below are some of the most exciting studies to come out in the last few years and show that meditation really does produce measurable changes in our most important organ. Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren’t simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there’s good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.

 

Meditation Helps Preserve the Aging Brain

Last week, a study from UCLA found that long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged. Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators. “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” said study author Florian Kurth. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”

Meditation Reduces Activity in the Brain’s “Me Center”

One of the most interesting studies in the last few years, carried out at Yale University, found that mindfulness meditation decreases activity in the default mode network (DMN), the brain network responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts – a.k.a., “monkey mind.” The DMN is “on” or active when we’re not thinking about anything in particular, when our minds are just wandering from thought to thought. Since mind-wandering is typically associated with being less happy, ruminating, and worrying about the past and future, it’s the goal for many people to dial it down. Several studies have shown that meditation, though its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

Its Effects Rival Antidepressants for Depression, Anxiety

A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain. Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate, at 0.3. If this sounds low, keep in mind that the effect size for antidepressants is also 0.3, which makes the effect of meditation sound pretty good. Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. “A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Goyal. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.” Meditation isn’t a magic bullet for depression, as no treatment is, but it’s one of the tools that may help manage symptoms.

Meditation May Lead to Volume Changes in Key Areas of the Brain

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: Eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing. There were also decreases in brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress – and these changes matched the participants’ self-reports of their stress levels, indicating that meditation not only changes the brain, but it changes our subjective perception and feelings as well. In fact, a follow-up study by Lazar’s team found that after meditation training, changes in brain areas linked to mood and arousal were also linked to improvements in how participants said they felt — i.e., their psychological well-being. So for anyone who says that activated blobs in the brain don’t necessarily mean anything, our subjective experience – improved mood and well-being – does indeed seem to be shifted through meditation as well.

Just a Few Days of Training Improves Concentration and Attention

Having problems concentrating isn’t just a kid thing – it affects millions of grown-ups as well, with an ADD diagnosis or not. Interestingly but not surprisingly, one of the central benefits of meditation is that it improves attention and concentration: One recent study found that just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE. In fact, the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points, which is nothing to sneeze at. Since the strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is one of the central aims of meditation, it’s not so surprising that meditation should help people’s cognitive skills on the job, too – but it’s nice to have science confirm it. And everyone can use a little extra assistance on standardized tests.

Meditation Reduces Anxiety — and Social Anxiety

A lot of people start meditating for its benefits in stress reduction, and there’s lots of good evidence to support this rationale. There’s a whole newer sub-genre of meditation, mentioned earlier, called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness (now available all over the country), that aims to reduce a person’s stress level, physically and mentally. Studies have shown its benefits in reducing anxiety, even years after the initial 8-week course. Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, in contrast to attending to the breath only, can reduce anxiety – and that these changes seem to be mediated through the brain regions associated with those self-referential (“me-centered”) thoughts. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to help people with social anxiety disorder: a Stanford University team found that MBSR brought about changes in brain regions involved in attention, as well as relief from symptoms of social anxiety.

Meditation Can Help with Addiction

A growing number of studies has shown that, given its effects on the self-control regions of the brain, meditation can be very effective in helping people recover from various types of addiction. One study, for example, pitted mindfulness training against the American Lung Association’s freedom from smoking (FFS) program, and found that people who learned mindfulness were many times more likely to have quit smoking by the end of the training, and at 17 weeks follow-up, than those in the conventional treatment. This may be because meditation helps people “decouple” the state of craving from the act of smoking, so the one doesn’t always have to lead to the other, but rather you fully experience and ride out the “wave” of craving, until it passes. Other research has found that mindfulness training, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), and mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) can be helpful in treating other forms of addiction.

Short Meditation Breaks Can Help Kids in School

For developing brains, meditation has as much as or perhaps even more promise than it has for adults. There’s been increasing interest from educators and researchers in bringing meditation and yoga to school kids, who are dealing with the usual stressors inside school, and oftentimes additional stress and trauma outside school. Some schools have starting implementing meditation into their daily schedules, and with good effect: One district in San Francisco started a twice daily meditation program in some of its high-risk schools – and saw suspensions decrease, and GPAs and attendance increase. Studies have confirmed the cognitive and emotional benefits of meditation for schoolchildren, but more work will probably need to be done before it gains more widespread acceptance.

Worth a Try?

Meditation is not a panacea, but there’s certainly a lot of evidence that it may do some good for those who practice it regularly. Everyone from Anderson Cooper and congressman Tim Ryan to companies like Google Google and Apple Apple and Target Target are integrating meditation into their schedules. And its benefits seem to be felt after a relatively short amount of practice. Some researchers have cautioned that meditation can lead to ill effects under certain circumstances (known as the “dark night” phenomenon), but for most people – especially if you have a good teacher – meditation is beneficial, rather than harmful. It’s certainly worth a shot: If you have a few minutes in the morning or evening (or both), rather than turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try quieting down your mind, or at least paying attention to your thoughts and letting them go without reacting to them. If the research is right, just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference.

 

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Aspartame: O Veneno do Século/The Century Poison

A talidomida dos anos 90 é o aspartame, também conhecido como NutraSweet, Finn, Zero Cal e outras marcas comerciais.

O aspartame pode ser considerado a talidomida dos anos 90. Com os nomes de NutraSweet, Finn, ZeroCal e outras marcas comerciais, os adoçantes com aspartame são extremamente perigosos por estarem presentes em todaparte, em alimentos dietéticos, supostamente saudáveis, e até mesmo em Vitaminas para crianças, remédios, pudins, gelatinas e adoçando o mais inocente cafezinho.

É encontrado também na Diet Coke e em outros refrigerantes diet. O aspartame é uma neurotoxina, ou seja, uma droga que destrói o sistema nervoso e o cérebro. Sua molécula tem três componentes: ácido aspártico, fenilalanina e metanol. Já se comprovou que o ácido aspártico causa lesões cerebrais em experiências com animais.

A fenilalanina existente no aspartame é neurotóxica, quando isolada dos outros aminoácidos das proteínas. Facilita a ocorrência de ataques epiléticos e bloqueia a produção de serotonina, que é uma das substâncias existentes no cérebro para regular o sono. Níveis baixos de serotonina, além de insônia, provocam depressão, angústia, mau humor e até sintomas de paranóia.

Finalmente, o metanol venenoso álcool de madeira que já cegou e matou milhares de pessoas converte-se depois de ingerido em formaldeído e ácido fórmico (principal componente do veneno da picada das formigas). O formaldeído, neurotoxina mortal que fica armazenada no tecido adiposo, principalmente nos quadris e coxas, é usado para embalsamar cadáveres e é um violento cancerígeno.

Há 92 sintomas documentados de envenenamento por estes produtos, entre os quais encontramos:
a.. dores de cabeça
b.. ganho de peso
c.. alterações no nível de colesterol
d.. alterações na pressão sanguínea
e.. urticária
f.. dormência
g.. fadiga
h.. xeroftalmia (olhos secos)
i.. dificuldade de salivação
j.. irritabilidade
k.. ansiedade
l.. depressão
m.. visão borrada
n.. tonteira
o.. vertigens
p.. espasmos musculares
q.. ataques epiléticos
r.. taquicardia
s.. zumbido nos ouvidos
t.. perda de audição
u.. cegueira
v.. fala arrastada
w.. perda do paladar
x.. insônia.

Um dos efeitos mais sarcásticos, embora não mortal, do aspartame é o GANHO DE PESO. Em sua ação sobre o cérebro, o aspartame faz com que a pessoa sinta mais desejo de comer carboidratos farinhas, açúcares, amido e, assim,acaba engordando. Forma-se um círculo vicioso: a pessoa toma aspartame para emagrecer; mas passa a ingerir mais carboidratos, e aí engorda; logo, adota ainda mais alimentos com aspartame. A pessoa presa neste círculo vicioso fica cada vez mais vulnerável aos efeitos letais da droga.

Se você usa aspartame e sente dores de cabeça, depressão, fala arrastada, boca sempre seca, perda de memória, perda de sensação ou dores repentinas nos membros inferiores, perda de equilíbrio, vertigens, ataques de ansiedade, fadiga crônica, se seus olhos se irritam facilmente, coçam,ou se sua visão está piorando ou com pontos brilhantes que piscam, se sofre descolamento de retina, ataques semelhantes aos epiléticos, espasmos musculares, palpitações cardíacas etc. você está com a doença do aspartame.

Muitos médicos têm diagnosticado esclerose múltipla quando o que existe na realidade é intoxicação por metanol. Esclerose múltipla não mata, intoxicação por metanol sim.

Algumas doenças provocadas pelo aspartame:
a.. tumores no cérebro e outros cânceres (seio, útero e pâncreas)
b.. esclerose múltipla
c.. epilepsia
d.. fibromialgia
e.. doença de Graves (disfunção grave da tireóide)
f.. síndrome da fadiga crônica
g.. doença de Epstein Barr
h.. doença de Parkinson
i.. mal de Alzheimer
j.. diabete
k.. retardamento mental
l.. linfoma
m.. defeitos no feto
n.. lupus sistêmico
o.. morte!

Na gravidez os efeitos do aspartame podem passar diretamente para o feto, que é sensível a doses mínimas. O tecido fetal não tolera o metanol, e o médico americano Dr. James Bowen chama o aspartame de controle instantâneo da natalidade. A placenta pode concentrar a fenilalanina e provocar retardamento mental. Testes com aspartame em animais produziram tumores cerebrais e mamários. Não admira que o câncer de mama e a epilepsia estejam crescendo nos Estados Unidos.

Durante a Guerra do Golfo, vários caminhões norte-americanos, carregadosde latas de bebidas dietéticas para os soldados, cruzaram o deserto sob o sol escaldante. Acontece que, a 30°C, o aspartame libera o metanol na lata. Milhares de homens e mulheres voltaram para casa com síndrome de fadiga crônica e estranhos sintomas de intoxicação. Só depois de algum tempo as autoridades identificaram a origem daqueles sintomas.

Nota: imagine o que acontece num caminhão de Coca-Cola light parado num engarrafamento no verão de nossas grandes cidades!

Muto grave também é o efeito devastador do aspartame sobre os diabéticos. O Dr. H. J. Roberts especialista americano em aspartame e em diabetes), relatou, num artigo, 58 casos de reações adversas do aspartame em diabéticos. Já o dr. Russell Blaylock, neurocirurgião, disse, em seu livro “Excitotoxinas: o sabor que mata” (editado nos EUA pela Health Press,cujo telefone, lá, é: 1-800-643-2665) que o aspartame pode provocar a diabete clínica. Ele afirma que as excitotoxinas que podem ser encontradas nos adoçantes com aspartame levam os neurônios à morte, provocando danos cerebrais de vários graus. Diz também que “o que realmente preocupa quanto ao aspartame é sua associação com tumores cerebrais, pancreáticos, uterinos e ovarianos … e que tantos pacientes desenvolvam uma síndrome semelhante à de Alzheimer com a exposição prolongada.”

As empresas norte-americanas NutraSweet e Searle, cujos químicos descobriram o aspartame durante experiências com um remédio para úlcera, pertencem à multinacional Monsanto. Em 1969, a Searle contratou o Dr. Harry Waisman para estudar os efeitos do aspartame em primatas. Sete bebês macacos receberam o produto no leite. Um morreu em 300 dias; cinco outros tiveram ataques epiléticos. A Searle eliminou estes resultados quando submeteu o estudo à Food and Drug Administration (FDA), órgão do governo americano que estuda e libera para consumo humano alimentos, aditivos e remédios.

Muitos dizem que o aspartame não pode fazer tanto mal, se foi liberado pela FDA. Quanto a isso, é bom conhecer alguns dados. Vários estudos comprovam que 51% das drogas aprovadas pela FDA apresentam riscos sérios e podem causar reações adversas que levam à invalidez ou até à morte. Interessante é que o chefe da FDA, Arthur Hayes, ignorou os relatórios de sua própria comissão de pesquisas para aprovar o aspartame, e depois foi trabalhar na empresa de relações públicas da multinacional que fabrica o aspartame. O promotor federal Sam Skinner foi designado para processar a Searle por causa da fraude nos testes existente em seu pedido de aprovação do produto, mas mudou de lado e foi trabalhar junto aos advogados da Searle. O caso morreu quando os prazos se esgotaram.

Até 1996, a FDA recebeu mais de 10.000 queixas de consumidores contra o NutraSweet. Isso corresponde a 80% do total de queixas sobre aditivos alimentares, mas a FDA nada faz para alertar o público, que supõe que um produto tão anunciado como saudável deve ser seguro. Não seria a primeira vez que a FDA aprovou uma droga nociva.

Pesquisadores do Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) observaram 80 pessoas que sofreram ataques cerebrais depois de comerem ou beberem produtos com aspartame. O Community Nutrition Institute declarou a respeito:”Estes 80 casos ajustam-se à definição da FDA de risco iminente para a saúde pública, que exige da própria FDA a retirada imediata do produto do mercado.”

Esta é uma tradução livre para o português, feita por mim, Beatriz Medina, em julho de 1996.

 

Este texto da pesquisadora americana Barbara Alexander Mullarkey foi veiculado na Internet por Betty Martini e seu original pode ser encontrado em:

 

Information in English, link below:

http://www.dorway.com

 

 

Aspartame (youtube link)