Aged garlic is one of my favourite supplements. Several studies show that taking aged garlic extracts can protect against hardening of the coronary arteries by preventing a build-up of calcium in artery walls. Researchers have now found that garlic extracts also inhibit, and may even reverse, the ‘soft’ furring up due to an accumulation of fatty plaques – at least in people with metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome affects an estimated 20% of Western populations, and is associated with abdominal obesity, raised triglycerides, low ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol, high fasting blood glucose levels and/or high blood pressure. It’s not a good syndrome to have as it doubles your risk of a heart attack or stroke. As a result, around one in two people with coronary artery disease are also diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome.
Garlic protects against metabolic syndrome
Latest evidence for the protective effect of garlic comes from a study involving fifty-five people with metabolic syndrome who were asked to take either 2400 mg aged garlic extracts per day, or placebo for 12 months. Similar numbers in each group were also taking a lipid lowering statin drug and/or blood pressure lowering medication. Participants had their coronary arteries assessed by multi-slice CT scanning (coronary computed tomography angiography) at the start of the study and again one year later.
In those who’d taken the aged garlic extract, total plaque accumulation was slowed by 80%, and the degree of measurable soft plaque actually reduced by -1.5%. In those taking placebo, however, the degree of plaque present increased by +0.2% as their arterial disease continued to progress despite all the medications they were on.
More research is needed to assess the extent to which the prevention of new plaque formation seen by taking aged garlic extracts can decrease the actual risk of experiencing angina or a heart attack. However, according to the researchers, this study indicates that aged garlic extracts have the ability to stabilize atherosclerosis by reducing the amount of ‘soft’ plaque in a similar way to statin therapy. Suggested mechanisms include the known cholesterol-lowering and blood-pressure lowering effects of garlic as well as its ability to reduce inflammation.
Beneficial effects on other heart disease risk factors
A review published in the same journal searched the medical literature for all evidence relating to effects of garlic on heart disease risk factors. They concluded that garlic supplements can:
- reduce blood pressure by 7–16 mmHg (systolic) and 5–9 mmHg (diastolic)
- reduce total cholesterol by 7.4–29.8 mg/dL (0.19 – 0.77 mmol/L).
In an accompanying press release, lead researcher Dr Matthew Budoff says, ‘…four randomized studies have led us to conclude that aged garlic extracts can help slow the progression of atherosclerosis and reverse the early stages of heart disease.’
Exciting news – especially for those who are unable to tolerate statin therapy. I take a garlic tablet every night and may even increase my dose! As always, do check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking a supplement if you are on any prescribed medication.
NB The aged garlic extracts (Kyolic) used in this study were prepared by soaking sliced raw garlic in alcohol for 20 months at room temperature during which the ‘smelly’ components such as allicin were converted to more powerful, but less odoriferous antioxidants such as s-allyl-cysteine. The extract was then filtered and concentrated.
Read more about the health benefits of garlic here.
Do you eat garlic regularly for health benefits, or take garlic supplements? Have you found them helpful?
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