A study from the University of Saskatchewan and UCLA on garlic and heart disease was published in the Journal of Nutritionin 2016. It was a review of thousands of studies on animal and humans evaluating garlic’s effects and safety. The authors looked at the medical literature on garlic supplements and their effects on high blood pressure, cholesterol,, C-reactive protein (an indicator of inflammation) and coronary artery calcium, as well as available data on side effects.. Only double blind, randomized, controlled trials were included. In other words, this was a very careful study.. What was found was that garlic supplementation reduced blood pressure by 7-16 mm Hg systolic and 5-9 mm diastolic. It reduced total cholesterol by varying amounts: 7.4 to 29.8 mg/dl in various studies. The most consistent benefits were shown in studies that used aged garlic extracts. Although garlic is generally safe, rare adverse reactions were documented. The authors concluded that garlic supplementation has the potential for cardiovascular protection based on risk factor reduction.
The take home message from this, and other studies on garlic, is that it is a powerful vegetable we should include in cooking and also as a supplement if needed. It is a member of the allium family of vegetables including onions, leeks, shallots and chives, all of which are healthy and flavorful. To prepare garlic in your cooking – select a few cloves, peel them and crush or chop them. Let the garlic then rest for at least 10 minutes before cooking, - this triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy properties of garlic. Cooking the garlic for a shorter time will enhance its effectiveness. You can also add raw garlic to hummus, salads and soups. The most well-known aged garlic extract is Kyolic, but there are several others on the market.
Sadja Greenwood, MD, MPH past columns on this blog leave me a message or a question