Transcendental Meditation May Lower Heart Risk
"In cardiology, we are always impressed when we see any effective intervention," says cardiologist Michael Shapiro, DO, of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. "But to actually show a reduction in overall mortality -- that is really impressive."
Shapiro, who reviewed the study for WebMD, says that its design appears scientifically rigorous and that its results are likely valid. But he says the study was too small to draw any definite conclusions.
"I am enthusiastic and cautiously optimistic," says Shapiro. "Overall, I like the study, and it provides justification for a much larger study."
Shapiro, who practices a different form of meditation, also says that more needs to be learned about what drives these results. He says the reduction in blood pressure, while significant, is likely not enough to account for all of the study's positive outcomes.
"Meditation can do a whole host of positive things: reduce anger and stress, encourage happiness," he says. "Who is to say that these are not the most important factors? This study can't get at the mechanism involved. We don't know how it works."
A Cost-Effective Means of Prevention
Transcendental Meditation, says Schneider, is "a simple, effortless, and natural way to settle down to a quiet state of mind."
But it is not free. According to the Maharishi Foundation USA's web site, the seven-part introductory TM course that the study participants attended costs $1,500. Financial aid and sliding scale fees are available to those who can't afford the full amount.
To Schneider, this study shows that TM is a cost-effective means of prevention.
"This is the strongest study ever done on meditation or any mind-body intervention for cardiovascular disease," he says.
In July 2011, the study was pulled from publication in Archives of Internal Medicine, a last-minute decision made when one of the journal's reviewers raised questions about the data. Schneider says that in the intervening time, the data was re-analyzed. Also, new data was added and the study underwent an independent review.
"This is the new and improved version," Schneider says. It appears in the current issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.