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Journal pulls meditation paper after “additional data” surfaces

A journal said today that it was pulling a paper linking transcendental meditation to lowered rates of death from heart attack and stroke after its authors provided additional data “less than 24 hours” before the article had been slated to be published online.

The Archives of Internal Medicine notified reporters of the decision via email at 2:48 pm Chicago time on 27 June – twelve minutes before the article had been scheduled to be published. The decision was too late for some media outlets that had prepared stories based on an embargoed press release about the paper. The Telegraph ran a story about the paper online in which the paper’s senior author, Theodore Kotchen of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said: “These findings are the strongest documented effects yet produced by a mind-body intervention on cardiovascular disease. The effect is as large or larger than major categories of drug treatment for cardiovascular disease.” (Update, June 28: Maureen Mack, director of media relations at the Medical College of Wisconsin has notified us that the Telegraph misattributed this quote. It should have been attributed to the paper’s first author, Robert Schneider of the Maharishi University of Management.)


The Telegraph also quoted one scientist at the US National Institute of Mental Health who described the paper as a “seminal finding.”

“The prevention of heart attack and stroke and actual lengthening of lifespan by an alternative treatment method is exceedingly rare, if not unprecedented. If Transcendental Meditation were a drug conferring so many benefits, it would be a billion-dollar blockbuster,” the NIMH’s Normal Rosenthal told the Telegraph.

Archives spokeswoman Jann Ingmire said she had asked the Telegraph not to run the story in its print edition on 28 June.

Ingmire said she could not recall another situation in which the journal had decided at the last minute to pull a paper that had been scheduled to be published. However she said the journal was placed in a difficult position after the authors of the paper submitted additional data about the paper so close to its publication date. She said it was unclear whether the new data changed the paper’s conclusions.

“It became apparent that there was additional data not included in the manuscript that was about to be published, and the editor of Archives thought that the information was significant enough that it needed to be included as part of the paper, and then re-analyzed and verified, so she made the last-minute decision not to publish it,” Ingmire said. The editor of the journal is Rita F. Redberg of the University of California at San Francisco.

Ingmire said: “It’s an unusual situation, but the bottom line is that our journal wants to make sure that the information we put out is as accurate as can be.”

Larry Husten at Forbes points out that the paper’s “first author, Robert Schneider, is the Dean of the College of Maharishi Consciousness Based Health Care at Maharishi University of Management and Director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, which is funded by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

The full text of the email from Archives is pasted below.

“The editorial office of the Archives of Internal Medicine has made the decision not to publish, “Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in African Americans,” by Schneider et al, and the accompanying Commentary by Mehta and Bairey Merz that was to post Online First at 3 PM central time today.

The decision is to allow time for review and statistical analysis of additional data not included in the original paper that the authors provided less than 24 hours before posting. We apologize for the short notice, but hope you will understand and not run your stories on this study today.”

Update, June 28: The online Telegraph story has been removed.

Follow Erika on Twitter at @Erika_Check.

Comments

  1. Report this comment

    Carlos Monteiro said:

    Studies have shown that Transcendental Meditation not only lowers cholesterol and blood pressure but also reduce atherosclerosis. Most interesting is that a meta-analysis of 31 studies found that TM produces a lowering of plasma lactate. Lower plasma lactate indicates profound relaxation, since high concentrations of lactate have been associated with stress situations like high anxiety, and high blood pressure. A higher lactic acid concentration in plasma is a decisive risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to our acidity theory of atherosclerosis.

  2. Report this comment

    Akiasugi said:

    (Spelling corrected.)

    Transcendental Meditation (or TM) is simply mental repetition of a mantra, a very common thing not unique to any particular religion or practical philosophy. There never has been any reason to believe the technique was invented by or improved by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

    Whatever physiological cause-effect relationship can be established for TM necessarily can also be established for any such technique designed to elicit relaxation with minimal alertness to outside stimuli, i.e., enforced mental stress reduction.

    (Try it: Sit up straight, take a few deep breaths, and close your eyes. Repeat mentally the following mantra for the next 20 minutes. While doing this note but ignore—do not try to suppress—all other internal mental events and bodily sensations for the next 20 minutes):

    81039

    72855

    17402

    28348

    22119

    Since the paper does not appear here it cannot be known if the mind set and expectations of the experimental subjects played a part. That is not a factor that can be controlled, only influenced.

    Creating a base of published research, no matter how frivolous, is meant to give the impression that “natural medicine” and “Vedic” or “Aryuvedic” medicine has a scientific basis. The naive reader is being induced to generalize from there.

    The TM organization has been promoting spurious claims since the 1960s and making huge profits in the process.

    I hope the journal in question is knowledgeable enough to cross-check with already established facts.

    Hyperbolic claims from the NIMH’s Normal Rosenthal are unfounded. You proceed at your own peril if you have heart disease and pursue any such claims as a viable therapy, or if you believe TM prevents heart disease. Rosenthal is making dangerously misleading statements.

    An early business associate of the Maharishi, Deepak Chopra, has acquired huge amounts of money selling metaphysical bunk labeled science and natural health to naive and gullible customers. The TM organization from which he sprang is more of the same.

    As for health education, any improvement in knowledge of physiology, pathophysiolgy, and medicine can be beneficial in making health choices. The TM organization is not the best place to seek it.

  3. Report this comment

    Chris Lawson said:

    Mr Monteiro, do you have a reference for that meta-analysis? I couldn’t find it on PubMed.

  4. Report this comment

    dave said:

    Looks like you’re playing the fallacy card Carlos; you’re making a false assumption by extrapolating that as you think TM reduces stress, and less stress has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, then TM improves cardiovascular health.

    That’s a very poor way to behave and possibly explains the many fallacious assumptions present in your blog.

  5. Report this comment

    Carlos Monteiro said:

    Dave,

    TM is only one line in our studies that also fits with our idea that sympathetic activation is the primary factor in the cascade of events leading to the atherogenic spiraling and that lactic acid concentration as irritating factor acting on the endothelial cell surface. We have many articles evidencing this in our blog http://www.aciditytheory.blogspot.com. For example take a read into the threads: “The potential positive effect of improvement in baroreflex function on prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis”, from March 9, 2011; Infection through bacteremia leads to sympathetic overactivity and then to the atherosclerotic process", November 3, 2010; “Lactate, coronary artery disease, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes”, October 3, 2010; and much more.. Please read carefully and without prejudice. We are talking about science. Hoping you reply in the same tone.

    Carlos Monteiro

  6. Report this comment

    BePatient said:

    Don’t misinterpret this unusual delay. This was a nine year study, and it received the normal reviews at each stage of the process.

    The authors of the study welcomed this delay, as it allows additional analyses and information (which was requested only a week before the study was to be published) to be included when the study does get published. The authors are committed to producing the highest quality report.

  7. Report this comment

    Natural supplements said:

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