Lead author Dr. Andrew Newberg of the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, and colleagues evaluated 15 participants -- 13 women and two men ages of 21-85 -- before and after their visit to We Care Spa, a health and wellness spa in Desert Hot Springs Calif.
"Programs such as these have never before been formally evaluated for their safety and physiological effects," Newberg said in a statement.
The week-long program included diet modification, meditation and colonic hydrotherapy, voluntarily participation in low-risk hatha and Vishnu flow-yoga programs, and a juice-fast cleansing very low calorie diet of approximately 800 calories per day. Stress management was provided through daily structured meditation and yoga programs.
Before arriving, participants were asked to modify their diet three to four days prior to arrival by replacing a normal diet with fruit, raw and steamed vegetables, salads, vegetables, herbal teas, prune juice in the morning, laxative teas or herbal laxatives nightly and avoiding pasta, meat, cheese, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods.
The spa program resulted in a weight decline of an average of 6.8 pounds, a 7.7 percent decrease in diastolic blood pressure as well as a decrease in mercury, sodium and chloride levels and a 5.2 percent decline in cholesterol level.
No serious adverse effects were reported by any individual, but the study, scheduled to be published in the December issue of Integrative Medicine, A Clinician's Journal, noted changes in the participants' sodium and chloride concentrations.
The findings suggest those interested in going to a spa program should check with their physician to make sure they do not have any medical problems or medications that could put them at risk for electrolyte disturbances.