Transcendental meditation study gets plug from journal despite its odd publishing history.

In 2011, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health claimed to find that Transcendental Meditation could reduce risk of death, heart attack, and stroke in African-Americans with heart disease, according to a press release. The study had a lovely pedigree: It was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and a version of it had been presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association.

But there was one thing: The study came not from a traditional university, but from the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa.

Twelve minutes before the study was scheduled to be published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, it was suddenly withdrawn. The explanation was that the authors had presented the journal with new data that would have to be reviewed before the study could be published.

The journal never did publish the study, but it was picked up by a heart association journal called Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, where it can still be found.

It seemed odd at the time that the study would be picked up by another journal with no acknowledgment of its odd history. What was the new data that led to it being passed over by the Archives of Internal Medicine? And should we be dubious about a study in which a university that teaches Transcendental Meditation concludes that TM is beneficial?

That would be enough for me to keep a little distance. But not, apparently, for the journal that published the article in 2012. 

A reader has now pointed out that the article was cited last year in the editors' picks for "most important articles published in 2012." Scroll to the bottom to see the citation. You will see that it was also cited in "most read articles in cardiovascular quality and outcomes."

I don't know what to make of this, but there were reasons to question the study before it was published, and there were more reasons to question it when it was withdrawn and published somewhere else. And even more, now that the editors have listed it as a top pick of 2012.

It might be perfectly legitimate research; I'm not addressing that details of the study. But based on the way it appeared, we might be a little circumspect.

-Paul Raeburn

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