May Research Findings

In this interesting vignette based study, 942 physicians and nurses were asked what advice they would give in different patient scenarios where the dynamic variables included patient age and whether the patient finished definitive treatment or not yet. A total of 2303 recommendations were coded and 71.8% regarded an increase in physical activity, 64.3% nutrition, 36.7% psychological support, 29.2% medicine support, 17.2% conscious living, 12.3% naturopathy. Psychological support was increasingly recommended if the patient was still undergoing treatment. Exercise was increasingly recommended if the patient had completed treatment. Considering the growing research evidence that exercise is beneficial even during treatment, this study captures some of the biases and fears clinicians have regarding evidence-informed treatment options. Read the study here.

In an important follow up study, Boyle et al showed that amongst 22 women with breast cancer who completed a 6 week mindfulness meditation intervention, amongst those who had significant increases in eudaimonic well-being (happiness generated by finding a meaning/purpose, as opposed to hedonic well-being which is happiness generated by pursuing objects/activities that produce pleasure, and avoidance of pain) versus those who did not, they had significantly decreased global CTRA (conserved transcriptional response to adversity) scores. But for all 22 women who participated in the study, average global CTRA score did not significantly decrease. Previously the authors and other groups showed that chronic adversity and distress can lead to higher global CTRA scores, i.e. increased expression of pro-inflammatory genes and decreased expression of antiviral and antibody-related genes. This study established that longitudinal changes of eudaimonic well-being within one patient/individual can actually lead to detectable and significant differences in transcriptional response at the cellular level. Of note, the improvements in the global CTRA score amongst patients with improved eudaimonic well-being were primarily driven by an improvement in the antiviral/antibody CTRA component of the score, not the pro-inflammatory CTRA component which had no significant changes. These insights might help scientific investigators better identify the "active ingredients" in an effective mind-body intervention. Read the study here.