Om! Vedic Transcendental Meditation Effective in Secondary Prevention

November 13, 2012

MAHARISHI VEDIC CITY, Iowa — A transcendental-meditation program consisting of two 20-minute meditative sessions per day significantly reduced the risk of all-cause mortality, MI, or stroke in African American patients with documented coronary heart disease [1]. The mind-body intervention also significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular mortality, revascularization, and hospitalizations for cardiovascular causes when compared with individuals who received cardiovascular health education only.

Led by Dr Robert Schneider (Maharishi University of Management, Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa), the researchers also reported a 5-mm-Hg reduction in blood pressure, as well as a reduction in psychosocial risk factors, such as anger, among those who meditated.

"The reduction in systolic blood pressure may be a physiological mechanism for reduced clinical events in this trial, since the magnitude of reduction has been associated with a 15% reduction in cardiovascular clinical events," write the authors in their report, published online November 13, 2012 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. "The improvements in anger expression and control may also have contributed to enhanced survival, since anger has been associated with cardiovascular disease clinical events in CHD patients."

Study Previously Pulled From the Archives of Internal Medicine

In 2011, the transcendental-meditation paper was all set to be published in the Archives of Internal Medicine but was withdrawn by the editors at the last minute because of concerns raised by reviewers at the National Institutes of Health, according to Cardiobrief.

Retraction Watch, a blog that covers journal retractions within the medical and scientific community, later published a statement from Schneider stating that the authors received requests for clarification and data analyses from the reviewers, and this led to a decision to withdraw the paper to revise it with the supplemental information. They also decided to resubmit to the journal for editorial review. "It should be emphasized that at each stage of the publication process, the paper underwent the normal procedures of peer review and followed the guidelines for publication in leading medical journals," Schneider told Retraction Watch.


Although the researchers appear to have planned to resubmit to Archives, they apparently went another route, publishing the paper with Circulation. Dr Harlan Krumholz (Yale University, New Haven, CT), the editor of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, told Cardiobrief: "We had no prior knowledge of what transpired with the Archives of Internal Medicine. The Schneider paper went through rigorous peer review, statistical review, and editorial discussions, and the authors of the article were responsive to the review process."

The study included 201 African American men and women with angiographic evidence of stenosis (>50%) in at least one coronary artery. The individuals were randomized either to transcendental meditation or to receive education that matched them in terms of instructor time and attention, social support, and other nonspecific factors. The control-arm subjects were asked to spend at least 20 minutes per day practicing "heart-healthy behaviors," such as exercising, preparing a healthy meal, or relaxing. For those randomized to the meditation arm, the ancient Vedic technique was taught by a certified instructor in six 1.5- to 2.0-hour individual and group sessions. Follow-up sessions took place every week in the first month and once per month in meetings for the duration of the study.

After more than five years of follow-up, 20 primary end-point events, defined as all-cause mortality, MI, or stroke, occurred in the transcendental-meditation group and 32 occurred in the health-education arm. Compared with the education arm, this translated into a significant 48% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality, MI, or stroke among individuals who meditated. Regarding the secondary end point, defined as cardiovascular mortality, revascularization, and hospitalization for cardiovascular causes, 44 events occurred in the meditation group and 54 in the education arm. This translated into a significant 24% reduction in the risk of the secondary end point among those who practiced transcendental meditation.

In their paper, Schneider and colleagues note that the mortality findings were confirmed by an independent analysis conducted by Dr Bruce Barton (University of Massachusetts, Boston).

In terms of the possible mechanisms that might have contributed to the cardiovascular benefit, the researchers note that previous studies have shown physiological changes resulting from transcendental meditation. Aside from the 5-mm-Hg reduction in blood pressure, which has also been reported in previous studies, past research has shown that transcendental meditation reduces sympathetic nervous tone and activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, as well as insulin resistance, left ventricular mass, myocardial ischemia, and carotid atherosclerosis.

Maharishi Vedic City . . . in Iowa

In addition to Schneider, five other investigators are affiliated with the Maharishi University of Management in Maharishi Vedic City, while three are connected with the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Maharishi Vedic City is a town of approximately 1200 people in Jefferson County, IA. The city was incorporated in 2001 and is unique in that every building in town is designed according to the principles of Maharishi Sthapatya Veda. Each building has rooms built according to precise Vedic proportions, and the rooms are placed according to the movement of the sun. The entrances to the buildings face east, and all have a central silent space known as a Brahmasthan, as well as a golden roof ornament known as a kalash. The design is meant to promote happiness, health, and good fortune.

The city has banned the sale of all nonorganic food and has adopted the Constitution of the Universe as its governing constitution.