BENGALURU: Yogasanas optimise certain chemicals in the body which prevent heart disease, cancer and dementia, according to a recent study.
A group of Bengaluru-based researchers say yoga acts as a buffer in the body and reduces stress, and that regular yoga practitioners are at a lower risk of developing inflammatory diseases leading to cardiovascular disorders, tumorigenesis (cancer) and Alzheimer’s.
The study was carried out by researchers from M S Ramaiah Medical College and the Indian Institute of Science.
Inflammation is the body’s response to an injury, and involves the secretion of cytokines, which are cell-signalling proteins in the blood to combat injury.
The study found that regular yoga exercise can help optimise the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6).
This is necessary for regulating the body’s immune response to an injury or infection. However, an imbalance in levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 can be harmful as excess amounts during chronic inflammation can cause tumour or other diseases.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, the researchers examined the effect of an exercise challenge on pro-inflammatory cytokine (TNF-alpha and IL-6) levels on a group of yoga and non-yoga practitioners.
The results showed that yoga practitioners fared better than non-yoga practitioners in cytokine levels after a moderate-to-strenuous exercise trial.
Base levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were lower in yoga practitioners (ones who have been practising yoga daily for one hour in the last five years) compared to non-yoga practitioners.
“The research highlights that the levels of cytokines decrease with an increase in the duration of yoga practice, especially when the yoga practitioner is exposed to severe physical stress in the form of strenuous exercise. This implies that the pro-inflammatory cytokines do not shoot up as much if one practises yoga regularly.” says Dr Ambarish Vijayaraghava, associate professor, Department of Physiology, M S Ramaiah Medical College and lead author of the paper.
Further, lipid profiles of both groups revealed that cholesterol, tryglycerides and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) were higher in the non-yoga group than the group of regular yoga practitioners. Further, HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels, also known as ‘good cholesterol’, was higher in the yoga group.
“Not only that, this study illustrates that the increase in levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines is less and less with longer and longer duration of yoga, when exposed to physical stress. So yoga acts as a molecular level buffer for physical stress. Yoga probably helps in acting as a cushion to absorb mental stress too, as yoga has both body and mind components,” says Dr Vijayaraghava.
Another author, Dr Omakar Subbaramajois Narasipur, is the Chief Research Scientist at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Science. He is also associated with Yoga and Biomech Lab, IISc.