WASHINGTON: A recent controlled clinical trial represented a rare attempt to use metabolic biomarkers to assess the reported health benefits of integrative medicine and holistic practices.
During the study participants were kept in a six-day Ayurvedic-based well-being program that provided a vegetarian diet, meditation, yoga and massages experienced measurable decreases in a set of blood-based metabolites associated with inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk and cholesterol regulation.
Senior author of the study Deepak Chopra explained, “It appears that a one-week Panchakarma program can significantly alter the metabolic profile of the person undergoing it. 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.”
Co-author Paul J Mills noted that alternative and integrative medicine practices, such as meditation and Ayurveda, are extremely popular, but their effects on the human microbiome, genome and physiology are not fully understood.
“Our program of research is dedicated to addressing these gaps in the literature,” he said.
“The researchers looked at the effects of a Panchakarma-based Ayurvedic intervention on plasma metabolites in a controlled clinical trial.”
“Panchakarma refers to a detoxification and rejuvenation protocol involving massage, herbal therapy and other procedures to help strengthen and rejuvenate the body,” added Mills.
The study involved 119 healthy male and female participants between 30 and 80 years of age who stayed at the Center for Wellbeing.
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.
The researchers found 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. Plasma and serum levels of the metabolites of phosphatidylcholine are highly predictive of cardiovascular disease risk,” said Mr Chopra.
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.
They said further studies were needed to more fully understand the processes and mechanisms involved.
The findings were published in the September 9 issue of Scientific Reports.
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