Here is one more reason American taxpayers should not continue to spend over $100 million a year on complementary, alternative and integrative techniques; after a six-day Ayurvedic-based well-being program that featured a vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga and massages they determined that their program led to measurable decreases in a set of blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk and cholesterol regulation. 

Six days.

Fortunately for them, there is always an open access journal that will publish a paper if the credit card clears, in this case Scientific Reports, probably becausee the senior author was famed spiritualist and one of the Four Horsemen of the Alternative Dr. Deepak Chopra, a noted proponent of alternative techniques.

What they call a clinical trial involved 119 healthy male and female participants between 30 and 80 years of age who stayed at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California - so the confounder is that they were already wealthy elites who believe that spiritualism can cure disease, since the Chopra Center's Perfect Health program costs $2,865 for a six-day treatment. Slightly more than half were assigned to the Panchakarma intervention, the remainder to a control group. Blood plasma analyses, using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, were taken before and after the six-day testing period.

"It appears that a one-week Panchakarma program can significantly alter the metabolic profile of the person undergoing it," said Chopra, whose foundation provided and managed funding for the study on which he was lead author, a conflict of interest that alternative proponents won't notice. "As part of our strategy to create a framework for whole systems biology research, our next step will be to correlate these changes with both gene expression and psychological health."

Study co-author Paul J. Mills, PhD, professor of family medicine and public health and at UC San Diego, noted that alternative and integrative practices, such as meditation and Ayurveda, are extremely popular among the kind of people who don't accept science, but any effects on the human microbiome, genome and physiology are unknown. "Our program of research is dedicated to addressing these gaps in the literature."

"The researchers looked at the effects of a Panchakarma-based Ayurvedic intervention on plasma metabolites in a controlled clinical trial," said first author Christine Tara Peterson, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "Panchakarma refers to a detoxification and rejuvenation protocol involving massage, herbal therapy and other procedures to help strengthen and rejuvenate the body."

Yes, these are people with advanced degrees who believe herbal therapy will detoxify the human body.

They declared that in the Panchakarma group there was a measurable decrease in 12 specific cell-membrane chemicals (phosphatidylcholines) correlating with serum cholesterol and inversely related to Type 2 diabetes risk.

"These phospholipids exert broad effects on pathways related to inflammation and cholesterol metabolism," said Peterson. "Plasma and serum levels of the metabolites of phosphatidylcholine are highly predictive of cardiovascular disease risk."

Application of a less stringent (!) measurement standard identified 57 additional metabolites differentially abundant between the two groups of participants. The authors suggested that given the very short duration of the trial, the serum profile changes were likely driven by the vegetarian diet component of Panchakarma.