Lori Alton via NaturalHealth365 – According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease, affecting over 18 million Americans. CAD is a condition in which arteries leading to the heart become constricted and narrowed by cholesterol-laden plaque (atherosclerosis). A complete blockage in an artery can cause blood clot formation, leading to a potentially life-threatening heart attack or stroke.
Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Chinese healers turned to garlic to treat a variety of ills. Now, research shows that extracts from these pungent little cloves can play a role in modern-day therapies to combat heart disease. In study after study, aged garlic extract is impressing researchers with its ability to vanquish atherosclerotic plaque. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.
Is it Possible to Reverse Heart Disease? Study Makes Bold Claim About Aged Garlic Extract
Garlic, botanically known as Allium sativum, gets its therapeutic powers from its supply of allicin – an enzyme formed when garlic is chopped, crushed, or chewed. Allicin’s powers are further unleashed when it breaks down into disease-fighting organosulfur compounds known as L-cysteine sulfoxides. (In fact, cysteine is a “building block” of glutathione, the body’s most indispensable antioxidant).
In a placebo-controlled study published in 2016 in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers examined the effect of garlic extracts on patients with metabolic syndrome or MS. Metabolic syndrome – a linked cluster of unhealthy conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol, and obesity – creates a sort of “perfect storm” for heart disease to develop.
The remarkable results showed that garlic not only reduced cholesterol and lowered blood pressure but reduced plaque in coronary arteries. And, it excelled at dissolving a particular type of deposit known as “soft plaque.” Some experts believe that this softer, more waxy plaque is more likely to rupture – and cause a life-threatening blood clot – than the denser variety.
Significantly, the researchers found the results so compelling that they used the “R” word (reverse) to describe the effects. “Aged garlic extract can help slow the progression of atherosclerosis and reverse the early stages of heart disease,” the team unequivocally stated.
The scientists added that “safe, highly tolerable” aged garlic extract could be used as either a stand-alone therapy or as an adjunct to standard medical treatment.
Aged Garlic Extract Offers Help for High Blood Pressure, Outperforms Prescription Drug
High blood pressure, which occurs in roughly 25 percent of the adult population in developed nations, poses a particular risk to heart health. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure makes blood vessels more prone to rupture and more prone to the accumulation of artery-clogging cholesterol.
Once again, garlic can come to the rescue.
In a 2019 review of studies published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, the authors reported that aged garlic extract had a favorable effect on blood pressure, dropping it by 7 to 16 mmHg in the systolic and 5 to 9 mmHg in the diastolic. In one study, researchers noted that garlic supplementation even outperformed atenolol, a popular pharmaceutical blood pressure medication.
In addition to lowering blood pressure, garlic extract caused mild to moderate decreases in total cholesterol and reduced arterial stiffness and the “stickiness” of blood platelets – meaning the tendency of blood to form into clots. The investigators pointed out that blood pressure reduction, along with other interventions, has been shown to slash the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke by a stunning 40 percent.
More Good News: Garlic Influences the Ratio of Healthy to Unhealthy Fats, Supports Friendly Bacteria in the Gut
When it comes to reducing risk factors for heart disease, it turns out that garlic extracts can provide valuable “pieces” of the interlocking puzzle.
As researchers have learned, adipose (fat) tissue of overweight individuals acts almost like a separate organ of the body, capable of influencing rates of inflammation and driving the progression of atherosclerosis. But, not all fats are created equal. “Brown” fat is linked to a lower risk of heart disease (and doesn’t promote the development of atherosclerosis), while “white” fat is much more problematic.
In a recent study published in the International Journal of Cardiology, researchers found 250 mg of aged garlic extract a day improved brown-to-white adipose tissue ratio – definitely good news for those battling obesity and heart disease.
Another “plus” for garlic is that it is a prebiotic food, meaning that it provides nourishment for the community of bacteria in the gut. In this way, garlic improves the richness and diversity of the gut microbiome, which is linked with anti-obesity effects, immune system health – even mood and cognition.
In one study, three months of garlic supplementation increased the number of beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria in the intestines.
Get More Garlic in Your Life
Garlic – whether raw, sauteed, or roasted – is such a beloved part of many cuisines that it’s hard to imagine certain dishes without it. Of course, shrimp scampi, garlic bread, pizza, and pasta are all foods enhanced by using garlic. But, healthier ways to use garlic include: hummus, mashed sweet potatoes, or “intensified” marinades and dressings.
Some garlic lovers advise nibbling on mint leaves, sucking on cloves, or chewing fennel seeds after a meal to reduce objectionable garlic breath. Others swear by diluted apple cider vinegar. Or, you can bypass the problem by using aged garlic extract, an odor-free alternative. (Another advantage of aged garlic extract is that it reduces the chances of gastrointestinal upset that can accompany garlic supplementation).
Natural health experts typically advise 300 mg to 1,000 mg of aged garlic extract a day but check first with your integrative doctor before supplementing.
Research continues to demonstrate that aged garlic extract can benefit heart health. When you consider that garlic also boosts immune system function, reduces the risk of infection, and helps to remove heavy metals from the body, it’s clear that the humble garlic clove deserves a place of honor in your health regimen.
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