Alteration of faecal microbiota balance related to long-term deep meditation
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  • Published on:
    Response to " Controlling for diet and BMI differences"
    • Jinghong Chen, Professor, Executive editor Professor in Shanghai Key Laboratory of Psychotic disorders Executive editor of General Psychiatry Shanghai Mental Health Center

    We are delighted that you are interested in our study. In terms of diet, we mainly recorded the usual diet and the diet from the past 24 hours. We found that the diet structure was consistent, but we did not further quantify the relative amount of food you mentioned. Regarding BMI, although we collected the same sample as the previous study, the selecting sample number is a different and we ended up selecting only a fraction of the original samples according to the strict sample collecting rule's limitation, therefore, some BMI values were missing and thus not complete analyzed in the article. Partly Data ANCOVA analysis Result showed no difference. The high altitude and small population of Tibet, combined with communication barriers, made it challenging to collect the sample. Therefore, we could not follow the strict inclusion and perfect criteria to collect the sample. However, as a preliminary study on the relationship between meditation and intestinal bacteria, our findings shed some light on the subject. It still is also good to bring some enlightenment to the field.


    Reference: Xue T, Chiao B, Xu T, et al. The heart-brain axis: a proteomics study of meditation on the cardiovascular system of Tibetan monks. EBioMedicine 2022;80:104026.

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Controlling for diet and BMI differences
    • Matt L Jones, Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Exeter

    Dear authors,

    Thank you for your interesting study on the effect of meditation on the faecal microbiota. The paper itself states that "...both [control and meditation] groups had the same dietary structure. The staple food mainly included highland barley, rice, steamed bread and noodles, and the supplementary food primarily comprised vegetables, meat and butter tea.'", but no other information or data is provided.

    In your reply to Dr Ong’s Rapid Response, you helpfully point readers interested in this question to the supplementary tables of your previously published paper using the same participants (1), with Supplementary Table 7 being the most relevant here. However, after examining the table and the other information provided in both papers, it is still unclear to me how diet was controlled for. The implication from the table is that participants in the Monk and Control groups were simply asked, in a qualitative way, whether or not various food groups were included in their daily diet. This information does not seem sufficient to use to control for diet, since the food groups participants about which participants were asked are very broad (e.g. highland barley, rice, noodles) - meaning that participants are likely to include/not include similar groups in their diet, even as the relative quantities of each food group that they consume may differ substantially. Could you please clarify how information about participants’ diet was recorded, and...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Do monks differ from the local population in other factors besides meditation?
    • Hean T Ong, Consultant Cardiologist HT Ong Heart Clinic, Penang, Malaysia

    Sun and colleagues compared the faecal microbiota of 37 Tibetian monks with 19 ordinary residents nearby to conclude that meditation favorably affected gut microbiota to have a positive effect on health. However, monks in a temple may differ from ordinary lay residents in other ways besides the practice of meditation. While monks are strict vegetarians, lay people are under no such obligation. Life in a temple is also more sheltered and less stressful when compared to that of ordinary people living in a harsh, high altitude environment. To show that it is meditation which causes the favorable faecal microbiota, the researchers would have to test the monks after a meditation free period, or else subject their lay controls to a period of intense mediation to see if there is any change in fecal microbiota afterwards. In selecting non monks who may be different as their controls, the researchers can be justified in concluding that monastic life favorably influences gut microbiota, but are not justified in attributing the change solely to meditation.

    Sun Y, Ju P, Xue T, et al. Alteration of faecal microbiota balance related to long-term deep meditation. General Psychiatry 2023;36:e100893. doi: ‪10.1136‬/gpsych-2022-100893

    Hean T Ong, FRCP, FACC, FESC
    Consultant Cardiologist, HT Ong Heart Clinic, Penang, Malaysia


    Thank you for your letter and interest in our study. We would like to make some clarification in reply to the...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.