By Nithin Sridhar
Ayurveda is among the oldest systems of health, medicine and holistic living. The central philosophy of Ayurveda revolves around facilitating each individual to understand his/her own body and mind, so that he/she can cultivate a healthy lifestyle accordingly.
To this effect, Ayurveda recognizes that each individual has a particular temperament and constitution (Prakriti) that is formed during the union of sperm and ovum itself, and hence it is genetic in origin.
Prakriti Classification of Individuals
Ayurveda classifies people into three categories of Prakriti based on the Dosha and the associating elements and Gunas (refers to 3 qualities – Sattva etc.) that are prominent in each individual. Doshas are three in number: Vata (related to movement), Pitta (related to digestion), and Kapha (related to cumulation).
Based upon which Dosha is predominant in an individual, people are classified into three categories of Prakriti– Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Further, Ayurveda defines health and illness in terms of equilibrium or imbalance in these Doshas. If a person's Doshas are in sync with his Prakriti, then such a person is healthy. If the proportion of Doshas significantly differ from his Prakriti, then there is imbalance that leads to illness.
Thus, Prakriti classification not only plays a central role in cultivating a healthy lifestyle, but also in diagnosing the illness of a patient. Further, without knowing the Prakriti of an individual, no treatment is possible in Ayurveda.
Genetic basis of Prakriti Classification
For long, the correlation between Genomics and Prakriti classification was hypothesized. Many studies in the past have tried to establish the correlation as well. But a recent paper published in Nature journal by a team of Indian scientists has come upon definite results that clearly establishes a genetic basis for Prakriti classification.
The scientists screened a total of 3416 healthy men located at different geographical locations and belonging to diverse linguistic and ethnic groups. Out of 3416 men, 262, who could be clearly classified into various Prakriti types based on their examination by senior Ayurveda physicians as well as Ayurveda software, were selected.
The scientists conducted a genome wide 'single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)' analysis on those 262 subjects. The analysis revealed that there were 52 SNPs (genetic variations) that were prominently different from the three Prakriti types. Using the principal component analysis of these 52 SNPs, the scientists successfully classified their 262 subjects into their Prakriti types.
The scientists further validated their findings by further analyzing samples of 297 Indians with known ancestry. The highlight of the study is that, the scientists were able to classify subjects into Prakriti types using SNP's irrespective of their ancestry. Further, they found a gene PGM1 that correlates with Prakriti type-Pitta.
The study thus clearly establishes a genetic basis of Ayurvedic classification of individuals based on Prakriti and has provided scientific evidence for the same. This marks another successful attempt at bridging the gap between Ayurveda and evidence based scientific approach.