If you are an African-American hypertensive at high risk of developing associated cardiovascular disease, a new paper from Maharishi Institute - where yogic flying instructors get trained to levitate(1) - says Transcendental Meditation will prevent abnormal enlargement of your heart and reduce chronic heart failure.

That is a very narrow claim, like leading your softball team in 9th inning doubles in the month of August, so it's okay to be suspicious. The study was also very small and the authors claim that the control group had a whopping 10 percent increase in abnormal heart enlargement after just six months while the group that did the meditation stayed the same, which means there was something else going on with the control group. If all the participants had actual medical treatment, the Maharishi meditation could just be a placebo.

This latest reach for legitimacy by Maharishi is courtesy of Robert Schneider, MD, who was trained as an actual doctor, and Komal Marwaha, who is not an MD in America but got an MD title from a school in India, so goes by doctor here the way naturopaths or lawyers can use the title Dr. if they choose. 

If you don't want to read about Maharishi wellness claims any more, the take home is this; if your heart has ballooned in size in six months, do not start meditation, go see a doctor who practices medicine, not one who who runs the very expensive Raj Ayurveda Health Spa in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa.

Panchakarma, whatever that is, is a "treatment" offered at the expensive spa where Dr. Schneider is medical director.

You can't just book a room, you have to fill out a form and then someone will do research on you to gauge how much money you have, and then call you and try to sell you on how their spa is worth it. Your health is more important than earthly goods! Except they raise $35 million each year to buy earthly goods for themselves (2) and that is just in the US. Their total assets are $3.5 billion.

Dr. Schneider says real medicine is too limited. "This is a form of heart disease where nondrug treatments are relatively understudied. Since the physiology of stress contributes to cardiac enlargement, we hypothesized that managing one's mind-body connection with Transcendental Meditation might prevent the disease process."

Might? Your press release claimed it did and now you are instead suggesting it is only treatment by helping verb?

Odd that the authors believe in the modern world when it comes to validating their beliefs - they used echocardiography to detect the hypertrophy they then claim meditation prevented more of from occurring. But even that didn't show what they claim. Half of the people in each group didn't take the final echocardiograph tests after the 6-month study period, so what was already a small pilot study of 85 people became just over 40, but they say the 11 percent improvement holds up because they didn't test about the same number of people in each group. Epidemiologists and statistics experts everywhere just felt a deep throbbing behind their eyes, so please send over a Maharishi doctor to give them all a Maharishi AyurVeda and Integrative Medicine massage.

How did this pass muster and get in a journal? One of the co-authors just happens to be Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the journal that published it. His bio says he is still editor-in-chief so it's hard to know what is real. 

Somehow being (emeritus) editor-in-chief of the journal where the paper you co-authored appears doesn't even merit a mention as a possible conflict of interest. Should we just believe that had nothing to do with how much (or how little) scrutiny this paper got?

It doesn't even merit a disclosure in the author affiliation:

Secret conflicts of interest are not new, of course. In the Wall Street Journal I exposed how activist Professor Tyrone Hayes of Berkeley got a friend of his, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, to personally "review" a PNAS paper claiming the pesticide he happens to make a career opposing impacted frogs and get it published - without anyone ever seeing any data. His friend handwalked it past peer review. Hayes refused to even show the data to a very interested EPA, yet it was supposedly peer reviewed?

And fellow Maharishi acolyte Paul Mills of UC San Diego didn't disclose his conflicts of interest in a paper he co-authored claiming he could detect a weedkiller in human urine. His conflict of interest was that he sold the test for his friend John Fagan, who created a boutique lab, HRI, to find weedkillers everywhere. He sells his home kit for $130. But Mills can talk with the dead so I shouldn't be too critical.

People affiliated with Maharishi play fast and loose with facts, and that should add an extra layer of critical thinking for any journalists covering their claims about alternatives to medicine.


(1) No one has even gotten past stage one, bouncing, while cameras are running. Maharishi scholars are sure to lead with the disclaimer that your flight time is not guaranteed.

Swing dance instructor and Maharishi graduated Jeffrey Smith has a photo of himself levitating but we all know it's fake, while UC San Diego's Paul Mills, who has a degree from Maharishi in a field where they are not even accredited, makes sure to stick to cosmic claims about epigenetics and singing bowls.

Jeffrey Smith levitation during a Natural Law Party press conference in Springfield, Illinois on Oct. 22nd, 1996. No one seems shocked, so I guess everyone in the Natural Law Party can do it.

(2) It's very well hidden through a maze of nonprofits. There is Maharishi University of Management Public Foundation, for example, whose sole beneficiary is the foreign Maharishi University of Management (so $0 is donated in the US yet it somehow has $45,000 in office expenses) which raises $1,400,000 while Maharishi Foundation USA Inc raises $20,000,000 but only pays its CEO a meager $61,000. Something does not add up, until you look at all that nonprofit money going overseas, which can then make its way back to private hands, without anyone but the IRS knowing. One thing is certain. John Hagelin brings home a lot more money than $61,000 a year. His Presidential campaign record shows he lives a short distance from one of the many buildings on their campus on something called Mansion Drive. You don't put double-wide trailers on a hand-named cul de sac (they are their own city) named Mansion Drive so maybe they gave him a house and then pay him through one of the many other organizations they control.