The Truth About Garlic and Heart HealthJune 11, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Perhaps you’ve recently heard or read the news: Garlic doesn’t help support heart health. At least that’s what many conventional doctors and nutritionists maintain nowadays. I was thinking about it this afternoon and wondered how it could be that so many natural health experts and traditional healers could have been so wrong about garlic for so long. I think I’ve come up with an answer to that question. Or to state it more accurately, it appears that science has discovered a possible reason for the controversy about garlic and cardiovascular health.
When it comes to heart disease, the catch word of the day is “cholesterol”. At least that’s the prevalent point of view in the allopathic medical community. This is evidenced by the sheer volume of advertisements and commercials for cholesterol lowering medications we see in print and on TV.
In April 2009, a review of garlic’s role in the management of high cholesterol was published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. This meta-analysis looked at 13 clinical trials that included over 1,000 participants. The authors of the study summarized their findings in the following way, “The available evidence from randomized controlled trials does not demonstrate any beneficial effects of garlic on serum cholesterol”. (1)
Like any investigation, the evidence upon which you choose to focus will often dictate results. In my own personal investigation, I’ve discovered that there appears to be a form of supplemental garlic that does, in fact, reduce cholesterol, as well as curb hypertension, improve circulation and, ultimately, reduce mortality brought about by cardiovascular disease. Here’s a brief summary of the science that supports my view of things.
- A study from December 2008 examined the effects of a standard garlic supplement versus a timed-release (TR) garlic tablet in 42 men with hypercholesterolemia. By the end of the 12 week trial, the TR garlic supplement reduced total cholesterol levels by 7.6% and 11.5% more than the placebo. The LDL (“bad”) cholesterol fell by almost 14%. The participants HDL (“good”) cholesterol rose by almost 12%. The dosage found to be most effective was 600 mg a day. (2)
- A 2007 experiment examined the effects of this same TR garlic tablet in a total of 112 volunteers. Half of the men and women were diagnosed with heart disease, the remainder were described as having at least “one or more risk factors of cardiovascular pathology”. The exact figures of this Russian study weren’t available, but the summary clearly states that 6 months of TR garlic therapy resulted in a “moderate hypolipidemic” (cholesterol lowering) and “antioxidant effect”. The researchers concluded that people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease would likely benefit in both the short and long term from a dosage of 600 mg daily. 300 mg was the recommended dosage for those with at least one risk factor, but lack a clinical diagnosis of heart disease. (3)
- A study appeared early this month in the journal Hypertension, which supported the notion that garlic could also help lower high blood pressure. Once again, this experiment compared the effects of a high-quality standard garlic tablet (Kwai) with a timed-release garlic supplement. 84 men with mild to moderate hypertension participated in the research. The results of the 8 week experiment indicate that the TR garlic promoted reductions in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure. The Kwai garlic resulted only in a drop in systolic blood pressure. The ideal dosage was again found to be 600 mg daily. (4)
- Poor circulation and abnormal blood clotting are consequences of coronary artery disease and are also major contributors to heart attacks and strokes. A 2001 study found that the use of 600 mg of TR garlic helped to reduce two well known causes of dangerous and inadequate blood flow: 1) excessive platelet aggregation (“sticky blood”) and 2) blood fibrinogen levels. (5)
- Diabetics are at a significantly higher risk of heart disease than the general population at large. In March 2008, a very promising study reported that TR garlic may be one of the most powerful natural aids to decrease cardiovascular risks associated with type 2 diabetes. 60 type 2 diabetics were given a daily TR garlic supplement or a placebo for 4 weeks. Blood tests were administered before the trial and after weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4. Fasting blood glucose was measured daily. The TR garlic was shown to lower blood glucose, serum fructosamine and triglyceride levels. The concluding remarks of the scientists stated that, “The benefits of garlic preparations may lead to the reduction of cardiovascular risk in diabetic patients”. (6)
Does this seem like a worthless food/supplement to you? The greater truth may be that natural foods and products are very complex. Sometimes it is assumed that because something is cheap, natural and widely available it must also be very easy to scientifically understand. The opposite is often the case. Natural foods are an extraordinarily rich sources of hundreds of naturally occurring nutrients and phytochemicals. Most medications cannot make the same claim. In fact, it’s quite typical for a medication to consist of just one chemical. Therefore, it only makes sense that natural products need to be manufactured and studied in a more precise manner. Most importantly, we should be very careful before dismissing a food with thousands of years worth of validation just because 13 recent studies contradict long-held, historical wisdom.
Posted in Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements