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Meditation reduces stress, instills compassion
October 18th, 2010
12:36 PM ET

Meditation reduces stress, instills compassion

A meditation practice invented more than 1,000 years ago may have real health benefits for people today, researchers at Emory University say.

These scientists are looking at how an ancient Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice called Lojong may help reduce stress itself, as well as improve the immune system's response to stress, said Dr. Charles Raison, principal investigator of the study at Emory and CNNHealth mental health expert.

Raison planned to present preliminary results of the study to the Dalai Lama, who attended the Compassion Meditation Conference on Monday. The project is called the Compassion and Attention Longitudinal Meditation Study (CALM).

"Lojong" means "mind training," and this specific practice is aimed at making a person more compassionate toward others, including friends and enemies. This is the type of meditation that the Dalai Lama primarily practices, Raison said.

"It tries to train people to rethink and reimagine their relationships with other people," Raison said. "It's a series of visualizations and mental challenges where you use meditation to challenge why you feel the way you do about people."

Participants are taught to look at all people equally as being valuable and important, and then attempt to develop strong feelings of compassion. They first examine compassion toward people they already care about, then toward people about whom they feel neutral, and then finally enemies.

"In its purest form, it's a way of practicing, of learning to become very thankful for your enemies because they help teach patience and caring," he said.

Raison and Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, lecturer in Emory's religion department have been working on methods of testing the effects of this meditation practice on the human body. They have preliminary results from a group of Emory University students as well as a more recent study on teenagers in foster care in Georgia.

In both groups, researchers found that the more a person practices, the more stress-reduction benefits he or she receives. It appears that just going to the six or eight weeks of classes is not enough, however; those who showed the best outcomes had meditated on their own time as well, Raison said. The available data suggest that you can get stress-related benefits from meditating three to four times a week, he said.

"It’s not necessarily something that would require a complete change of life. You don’t have to go off and go to a monastery," he said.

A challenge for both groups - college students and teenagers in foster care - is finding a quiet place to do meditation outside of class, Raison said. In general, the best venues for meditation are quiet places where the person feels peaceful, which may be somewhere outside, he said.

Besides looking at stress responses, the researchers are also trying to measure whether the meditation has a real effect on the participants' behavior. They did a small test of this by having participants wear an electronically activated recorder before beginning and after finishing the meditation interventions,

The recorder is used to evaluate the effect of the study interventions on the participants’ social behavior by periodically recording bits and pieces of ambient sounds from participants’ daily lives. Ambient sounds of the person's daily interactions are recorded.

Preliminary data suggest that indeed the meditation did make participants more compassionate in their interactions, but more study needs to be done to confirm this, Raison said.

The project will, in the future, also look at the effect of meditation on brain structure, by taking images of the brains of participants, he said.

Here's a guide to compassion meditation from Oprah.com.


soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. mirai

    "In its purest form, it's a way of practicing, of learning to become very thankful for your enemies because they help teach patients and caring," he said

    Patients? I think the word you're looking for is "patience".

    October 18, 2010 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      This isn't a news report, it is a blog. Blog = mental diarrhea. For actual factual information try a book. Books tend to be proof read whereas, internet anything, is just puked out as is.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • tony

      @Kraznodar: careful...anyone can write and publish a book. And as long as you get editors and publishers who share your views, then you won't have any problem. We can't really generalize ANY form of media and say that it is 100% factual. All works should be read with skepticism (NOT cynicism!) and we should try to at least recognize bias in everything. This goes for blogs, books, peer-reviewed journal articles, etc.

      October 18, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      I think this is a great way to help to improve concentration!

      October 19, 2010 at 21:15 | Report abuse |
  2. AverageReader

    Good content, but I must say, I was highly distracted by the poor writing / editing skills... the word 'patience' was misspelled, use of the word 'where' instead of 'wear'?? What is happening to our language when 'professional' writers / editors don't use the correct words?? Content cannot shine in such a context.

    October 18, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Beadles

      You are so write – sorry I couldn't help myself. I am so sick of reading poorly written and edited pieces. And, my current pet peeve is using an apostrophe to denote plural – as in "ripe banana's for sale." Some may view such things as minor problems – but, poor communication leads to many problems.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
    • dgmgdm

      bboob hoo! bwho bcares bhow bsomething ibs wrooten bjust undberstand ibt or kbeep tbhe grabmmare narbcing tbo ybour selvbes. you habd the quebens englisbh forbced on you. its nbot as imporbtant as whibner intebrnet correbcters make ibt out tbo bbe. bthings white peobple like. lookibng sbmart at the exbpense of sobmeone elses mistbake..

      October 18, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      It's – a blog!
      Its fine if they misuse a word here or there.
      Fine by me

      October 19, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
  3. Rachel

    Couldn't concentrate on this story for the amount of typos. *sigh* This is happening more and more...and not just on this site. 😦

    I have to go and meditate now to overcome this one.

    October 18, 2010 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DrMabuse

      Just wait until more comments show up–there will be more typos and wrong words galore.

      October 18, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
    • Evil Moo

      And the number of typos, for that matter.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:14 | Report abuse |
  4. jim

    Having free-time to sit on your butt on and focus on nothing probably has benefits too

    October 18, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zl

      Yeah, apparently it teaches you patients...

      Whatever that means

      October 18, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse |
    • EKG

      As opposed to what . . . watching TV? commenting on sites like this?

      October 18, 2010 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      HAHaha – – i will have to try that !

      October 19, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
  5. Megan

    There was also a sentence that trailed into nowhere. "This compassion meditation is This is the type of meditation that the Dalai Lama primarily practices, Raison said." You'd think someone would proof a story before it's posted.

    October 18, 2010 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      Ha – good eye for detail – but i think the message is still there

      October 19, 2010 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  6. Heidi

    Did CNN make corrections to this article? I don't see any of those mistakes. The writer used the proper "where" and "patience" is spelled correctly.

    October 18, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      Yup – looks like the corrections have been made – oh the power of instant feedback

      October 19, 2010 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
  7. elandau

    Thanks for the input everyone; these typos have been corrected.
    Regards,
    Elizabeth Landau

    October 18, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karl

      great story, and fast editing 🙂 keep up the good work!

      October 18, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      Thanks on the quick response – 10x better/faster than any other site.

      October 19, 2010 at 21:21 | Report abuse |
    • JasmineJ

      Thank you for using my photo! What a pleasant surprise to see my photo on CNN.com. I also loved the topic! I'm a nursing student and lord knows I want to rip out my hair sometimes. However, Bikram Yoga, nourishing food, and plenty of sleep allow me to deal more calmly and compassionately with difficult people and situations. Cheers.

      October 20, 2010 at 03:32 | Report abuse |
  8. MadCityBabe

    what article were you reading – I didnt notice any type-o's

    October 18, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      They have been updated – by CNN – the author

      October 19, 2010 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
  9. MadCityBabe

    ahh see post above – must have been corrected whew – I was going into a downward spiral over this hahahaha

    October 18, 2010 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Meditator

    Meditation is of many forms with different kinds of benefits. I am sure Lojong would be helpful in many ways. In my experience, I have found Inner Engineering (http://www.innerengineering.com/) to be extremely helpful. Apart from reduction in stress, it helped me improve health and increase the general level of happiness in life.

    October 18, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AnneSD

    This meditation might be helpful for a lot of commentators on many of the stories on this website. The comments on this particular article have been low-key, but many of the other articles have people commenting that seem very filled with insecurity, paranoia and just plain nastiness.

    October 18, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Yeh, sorry about that but I was raised to be angry and hateful and meditation is a tool that can also be used to increase your anger and hate. It wasn't until I got married that I realized that anger and hate really are not that useful in most situations. Too bad many others never learned the lesson. These days i only get angry if someone endangers another person's life or well being.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      Yup – i agree

      October 19, 2010 at 21:23 | Report abuse |
  12. fineart

    Let these superficial distractions simply melt into nothingness. Totally focus all of your attention into the darkness that's
    created by closing your eyes. When light flashes and flairs appear, it's only your third eye, located between and in back of your eyebrows that's seeing. Continue to focus and at the same time listen to your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply.
    Try this for ten to fifteen minutes each day and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable.
    Be sure to sit in a quiet dark place. Beleive me, you'll be a different person at the end of one month.
    Let me know how you do. Finearguru@yahoo.com

    October 18, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Been there, did that, didn't change. Not everything works for everyone.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
  13. UFB

    This is news?!? This was proven about meditation (transcendental meditation) more than 20 years ago!

    October 18, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AnneSD

      Not everyone that reads these pages was around or old enough to learn this twenty years ago. Some lessons bear repeating.

      October 18, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • UFB

      True, but do we have go keep wasting oodles of research money on reproving already established old science (or in too many instances, proving the patently obvious).

      October 18, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse |
    • JRH

      You mean more than 2000 years ago, right?

      October 18, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • UFB

      I was referring to the (western) scientific proof of the stress reduction and immune system response value of meditation, NOT the actual invention or practice of meditation.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      Ha – At least 20 centuries

      October 19, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
  14. fineart

    fineartguru@yahoo.com is my correct email. UFB, not everyone is attuned to these esoteric delights like you are.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. you all need to meditate more

    Meditation also helps the OCD you people seem to have about typos and editing. Read article, meditate, then comment.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Ordering me around makes me want to punch you in the head. Bad spelling and typos lead to confusion and miscommunication which lead to fear and anger. A poor education is not a convincing platform.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      haha– you tell them!

      October 19, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
  16. The Lion

    Hippies make me want to punch them.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Flower Dancer

      Why would you want to punch a hippie? All we want to do is change the world through peace, love and meditation.

      October 18, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
    • The Lion

      That’s exactly why! I don’t have a problem with hanging out and doing nothing, nor do I have a problem with changing the world, but you can't change the world by doing nothing. You can't have it both ways you stupid hippie! You are the laziest dirtiest most ridiculous form of Americans that exist! My standards are low, but you fail! You don’t just hit rock bottom, you find bottom and then keep digging!

      October 18, 2010 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
    • JRH

      It's hard to imagine going through life harboring that much anger toward people I don't even know or understand. How sad for you. As the Buddha said, we create our own misery.

      October 18, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • The Lion

      Shut up hiippie! Get a job!

      October 18, 2010 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
    • Moli

      Obviously you are a troll. I knew many hippies and they weren't dirty nor lazy, they simply lived life simply! They all had jobs unless they stayed home with their children. I never saw dirt on them nor have I ever smelled any odd odors from them. I honestly admired their garden and enjoyed the 'fruits and veggies' of their labor. I don't know what type of people you have come across, but perhaps you mistook homeless for hippie

      October 18, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • The Lion

      You couldn't smell them because you were all too high! Take a shower lazy hippie!

      October 18, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
    • Kimo

      The Lion? Someone has delusions of grandeur. More like an angry chipmunk.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • The Lion

      I'm going to eat the box you live in!

      October 18, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      Most hippies have jobs. Many of them make 6 figure incomes. Most of them don't use drugs or commit petty crime. I still want to punch them because they have terrible taste in clothing and art. Lion, I don't want to punch you, I want to exile you to a deserted island populated by rabid badgers.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      HAha – geez dude geez

      October 19, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse |
  17. Karl

    Loved the story, and I loved the fact where it explains about learning compassion for ALL people. Most of the people commenting about the mis-spellings should learn a little compassion 🙂 I saw the typos, but was able to get the idea behind the story, and have that needed compassion. I am sure the author after reading will choose a different spell check in the future, and or even look closer themselves. I hope this works and more people practice this type of compassion.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Al Brown

    Having been a clinician and a researcher in the field of stress in the 70s and 80s, changes in body have been well documented for techniques such meditation and other techniques. It is interesting to see a resurgence in reporting the benefits of these techniques in both the scientific and popular press. I believe that life in general is quite a bit more stressful than in the past and these techniques could help many live a more healthy and productive life. Thank you for the article.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Why do people always claim that life is more stressful now? 150 years ago, if your crop failed you literally starved to death. If you were injured you had no safety net and your entire family may starve. Roughly 80% of children died before adulthood. That is what I call stress. These days we have it very easy unless we live in the poor part of a third world country. If you are reading this you don't live there so stop whining.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
  19. Flower Dancer

    I love you all!

    October 18, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Flower Dancer

      I am going to come to the box you live in, shave your damn matted hair off, throw you in a swimming pool with bubble bath and force you to pick up the garbage left by hippies at the last granola concert fest you worthless pot smoking waste of skin!

      October 18, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      Geez – things are getting fiesty

      October 19, 2010 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
  20. Eric

    I'm happy to see science finally looking at the wisdom practices for ways to help people without medicating them. I'm also happy to see Buddhist ideas being presented in such a way. I'm sad to see the poor quality of writing, and the misuse of words in this piece. What happened to CNN?

    October 18, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Maggie

    I am very interested in trying meditation. Does anyone had any ideas on how to get started and understand how to get the most out of it?

    October 18, 2010 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AV

      Maggie,

      When you google on Meditation, it will come up with places where you can go to get started. Based on where you reside, you can pick a Yoga center and start there. Eventually, you should be able to do it on your own without a class.
      Also try your local park district to see if they offer Yoga classes. Meditation is taught in Yoga classes.
      Hop this helps you. Good luck to happier life style with meditation.

      October 18, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • JRH

      Anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn. And don't go in trying to "get something out of it". Just meditate for the sake of meditation. Anything else is just your ego clinging to a concept, and it's self-defeating. As my favorite bumper sticker says, "Don't just do something, sit there!"

      October 18, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
  22. Bob

    Meditation is one of the best things I do.. it should be taught in Elementary school, in Congress, in boardrooms and in Sunday School..What a great relief to know you can gain inner peace, control of your thoughts and reduce stress, and you don't need to take a pill!

    October 18, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Not everything works for everyone. Many Tibetans were still prone to crime and violence. Tibet fought wars. Obviously meditation isn't a panacea. I recommend it but let's be realistic. If you are a real jerk it isn't going to make you a saint. It may make you a calmer, happier jerk but it doesn't work miracles.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
  23. JRH

    "Invented more than 1000 years ago"???? Considering the Buddha was espousing it almost 2700 years ago, I'd say CNN's math needs a little work.

    Meditation is THE best thing I do. It should most definitely be taught from as early an age as a child is capable of comprehending the concept. There would be a whole lot less violence and a whole lot more compassion in the world. I'm sure Big Pharma would be dead set against it though. They'd sell WAY less mind-altering drugs.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Willie

      I think the reference to "1000 years" was referring to the development of the practice of Lojong, which evolved around 1500 years after the Buddha in present day Indonesia, Southeast Asia and spread to Tibet where it flourished.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • FauxNews

      ...remember, CNN mistakes teach us patience, lol.

      October 18, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
  24. Jim Bob

    Contrary to alarmist opinion, meditation is completely secular. It's a mechanical technique that produces clear thinking. Sort of 'mental hygiene'.

    October 18, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Yes, meditation is secular. Buddhism is a religion. While the religion gave rise to meditation, it is a separate thing that is practiced by many religions and even atheists.

      October 18, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  25. rowejimf

    Must've been outsourced...

    October 18, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. cheese whiz

    I work for the CNN bekahs I right good....ly.

    October 18, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. FauxNews

    "thankful for your enemies"??? I got stressed out reading this.

    October 18, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. John

    Buddhism...try it, you'll like it. Read, learn, and understand the Buddhist philosophy that includes training your mind for a better you. Buddhism isn't a religion, it's a philosophy that exercises your mind for a new clean image of reality, and our place in the Universe. Meditation is an exercise that lets you see the architectural structure of your mind, and with that you have an intelligence you never knew you had. No unquestioning faith allowed, or welcomed.

    October 18, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kraznodar

      Some people see a difference between philosophy and religion. I do not. At a Buddhist temple I saw the icons of the 13 faces of God. Anything that mentions God (or gods) is a religion. As an ex-Buddhist I find your post to be inaccurate. How much time have you spent on a prayer wheel? You sound like a "pop-Buddhist". Live for a year in India or Tibet with real Buddhists and then tell me about Buddhism.

      October 18, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
  29. RandomNeurons

    Meditation originated in India and not Tibet.

    October 18, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Andy

    I hope the people who seemingly love to take over an entire bus, subway, or train car read about this before they head out tomorrow. 🙂

    – A

    October 18, 2010 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Troubleshooter

    The Transcendental Meditation technique as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi knew about this 40 years ago, plus, with scientific research starting in the journal Science in 1970 and in Scientific American two years later. Say what you want about the man or the movement – the technique WORKS.

    October 18, 2010 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. MashaSobaka

    "It's a series of visualizations and mental challenges where you use meditation to challenge why you feel the way you do about people."

    I see 'meditation' is the key point. Otherwise anyone with a legitimate liberal arts education would be healthy and happy and stress-free. I can tell you that ain't always the case.

    October 18, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Greg

    Exercise is another great way to reduce stress. Check out exercises that can boost your energy level and reduce stress posted on Holosfitness.com. The site has hundreds of exercises posted with step-by-step instruction, all of which are completely free.

    October 18, 2010 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Scott

    Binaural Beat meditation works really well for people because it is scientifically proven, and it helps your brain "get" what meditation feels like. It is similar to using training wheels to learn how to ride a bike.

    There is a week-long course for free at http://www.TheMeditationMind.com

    I'm surprised at the hostility on a comment thread about meditation.

    October 18, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Elle

    This story helped me. i am new to a course in miracles, which also teaches about learning compassion, but the meditation is a little hard to swallow. thanks to the very helpful link, now i can learn to meditate while putting to use acim's core teachings!

    October 19, 2010 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. FreeSpiritGal

    Quote: "A meditation practice invented more than 1,000 years". Ah... 'invented'? ...Excuse me, Buddha Guatama taught meditation about 600 BC, that's roughly 2,600 years ago... By that time, meditation has already been widely practiced by Indian yogies for centuries! Meditation was a central practice in ancient Vedanta tradition (India) thousands of years ago. Ancient Egypt's Mystery Schools also practiced meditation many thousands years ago. Great Teacher Padmasambhava introduced Buddhism to Tibet in about 750 AD and established Tibetan Tantric Buddhism (not to be confused with Western interpretation of tantra).

    October 19, 2010 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. maha

    For FreeSpiritGal and others of you confused about how a meditation form was invented 1,000 years ago: There are many different forms of meditation. What one does with one's attention and body in one kind of meditation can be light years away from what's done in another kind. Most of the several forms of Buddhist meditation are considerably different from transcendental meditation, for example. If a TM practitioner wanted to learn Zen meditation he'd have to "unlearn" TM first.

    Tibetan Buddhist meditation is different in many ways from Vipassana or zazen, and Tibetan Buddhism isn't quite as old as many other schools of Buddhism. So 1,000 years is probably about right.

    I appreciate that researchers are finally taking these differences into account and not lumping all forms of meditation together. I know that there have been "studies" going back many years on the health benefits of meditation, but few of these were done by people who were genuinely objective or who actually appreciated that meditation is more than just a relaxation technique.

    October 19, 2010 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. john

    this is a load of crap. Raison showed NO SIGNIFICANT RESULTS in his studies.

    October 19, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Catherine

    One of the reasons people give for not giving mediation a try is that they just don't have the time, but you can actually begin to reduce stress levels and tap into the health benefits one minute at a time.
    There's some really simple one minute ideas in this article: http://bit.ly/wicmeditate

    October 21, 2010 at 11:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RBK

    Speaking of error: "A meditation practice invented more than 1,000 years ago may have real health benefits for people today, researchers at Emory University say." Here "1,000" needs to be replaced with "5,000". The meditation technique was invented before the Buddha's time (which is 2500 years ago when Buddha began practicing it). Buddha gave us the insight meditation technique in 500 BC, whereas the other form of meditation technique was invented during the time of the Rig Vedas –one of the oldest scriptures dating back 3000BC to 7000 BC...

    October 25, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. fineart

    This entire conversation about meditation is just so exhilarating, weather pro or con. This is going to make me meditate two and a half hours per day instead of my regular one hour. Thank you so much to everyone that has contributed thus far.

    November 7, 2010 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. stiff back

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    April 2, 2012 at 05:35 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.