- Health Solutions
- Diet & Nutrition
- Skin Care
- Healthy Living
- Resource Center
You are hereHome › Garlic is Good For Your Heart
Garlic is Good For Your Heart
Garlic is Good For Your Heart
Garlic might be best known for its supposed power to ward off vampires, but this bulbous herb’s true benefits lie in its ability to guard the body from more realistic threats like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and even the common cold.
While all forms of garlic are healthy, more than 650 studies point to one type above all others as especially beneficial—aged garlic extract (AGE). AGE is a true multi-tasker, especially when it comes to your cardiovascular system. A growing number of clinical trials show that transforming garlic using a traditional 20- month aging process not only removes its naturally pungent odor, it also gives it unique properties that help to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at the University of Adelaide in Australia and published in the October 2010 issue of the journal Maturitas, AGE was tested in a group of patients whose hypertension didn’t respond to medication. Those who took 960 mg of AGE for 12 weeks showed lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood-pressure reading) by 10 mmHg.
More recently, a January 2012 review of 26 studies in the Journal of Science and Food Agriculture concluded that AGE was effective for reducing total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. And an earlier trial by researchers at UCLA found that AGE modestly boosted HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
But AGE’s heart-healthy benefits don’t stop there. In addition to its impact on blood pressure and cholesterol, an August 2009 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in the journal Preventive Medicine found that this amazing herb can significantly reduce the coronary artery calcification that contributes to reduced blood flow and less arterial flexibility.
AGE’s disease-fighting potential
Your heart doesn’t own exclusive rights to garlic’s health benefits. British research published in March 2006 in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that a daily dose of AGE may also help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by inhibiting the formation of compounds called advanced glycation end products. These harmful substances are created when excess sugar in the blood cross-links with protein. The resulting compounds can provoke systemic inflammation that contributes to diabetic complications.
AGE is also a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals—damage-inflicting molecules that are missing an electron (normal molecules have two electrons). To complete themselves, these unbalanced molecules steal a replacement electron from another nearby molecule—which creates another free radical, which steals an electron from one of its neighbors and so on and so on. The result is a chain reaction that can damage DNA, proteins and other cellular building blocks. Eventually, this free radical damage, known as oxidative damage, may contribute to the development of degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
AGE’s benefits are so far-reaching that researchers are currently investigating its role in preventing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. A preliminary January 2012 lab test published in Molecular Medicine Reports suggests that AGE triggers the programmed death of cancer cells and inhibits their spread. And researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are beginning to look at a specific compound in AGE known as S-allyl-L-cysteine as a way to prevent and possibly treat Alzheimer’s disease by thwarting the degeneration of neurons in the brain.
A new way to fight colds and flu
While AGE is being investigated for its potential to prevent chronic disease, it may also bring about more immediate benefits, especially for those looking to sidestep cold and flu season. A January 2012 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Clinical Nutrition found that AGE may reduce the duration of the common cold or bout with the flu by as much as 61 percent. Cold and flu sufferers also experienced a 21 percent reduction in the number of symptoms and 58 percent fewer missed work days due to their illness.
The key is AGE’s ability to increase the body’s number of immune cells and enhance their function. AGE also boosts immunity by increasing levels of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Research suggests that glutathione enhances immune response by optimizing macrophage (a type of white blood cell) function while protecting disease-fighting cells called lymphocytes from oxidative damage and premature cell death.
How much should you take?
How much aged garlic is needed to experience all of these health benefits? Most studies use between 600 and 1,200 mg of a standardized AGE supplement, taken in divided doses on a daily basis.
However, while research has confirmed AGE’s safety, it’s important to note that garlic supplements have blood-thinning effects. That means that AGE may interact with blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin), and could increase your risk for bleeding during or after surgery. If you take supplemental AGE, make sure to let your doctor know.