Can a Garlic Supplement Prevent Heart Disease?

picture of garlic and garlic oil
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America due to many different risk factors. The use of garlic supplementation may help reduce blood pressure, total cholesterol, and improve blood flow to your heart. Since garlic comes in different forms, make sure to talk to your doctor to find out the best way for you to take it.

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with data showing one death occurring every 37 seconds. While modern medicine has helped further advancements in treating heart disease, we are still seeing staggering death rates. 

Garlic supplements have been the focus of research for its purported impact on heart disease. Read on to learn how garlic may help reduce the risk of heart disease

What is Heart Disease?

I bet if you’re reading this, you know at least one person close to you in your life with heart disease. Heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in your arteries and causes a clot to form due to stiffness in your arteries and reduced blood flow. 

What makes this condition so dangerous is that you may never feel symptoms until there’s already a significant buildup of plaque. Healthcare providers are focusing on managing combined risk factors to decrease your chances of developing heart disease.

Common risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet choices
  • Not exercising enough 

Depending on your risk factors, a combination of lifestyle changes and medication may be used to help lower your risk of heart disease. 

What’s the Role of Garlic?

Garlic has been used as a medicinal vegetable dating back to 2600 BC. While the jury is still out on why exactly garlic may be beneficial for our heart, many researchers believe its heart helping properties come from a small compound called allicin

Allicin, which is produced when a clove of garlic is chopped, is thought to be the reason for observed decreases in blood pressure, reduction in overall body inflammation, and lowering of cholesterol levels. 

A study looking at how garlic affected risk factors in heart disease showed that aged garlic extract was able to reduce both blood pressure and total cholesterol. It was also shown to be generally safe, with the most common side effect being stomach upset. 

Another study examined how different cooking herbs affected heart disease risk factors in adults. This study found that garlic reduced total cholesterol, increased good cholesterol, and decreased blood sugars. 

Recently, another study found that aged garlic extract may also improve the stiffness in your arteries caused by heart disease. Using the FDA approved EndoPAT machine, artery stiffness and blood pressure were measured over 12 weeks while patients were on garlic supplementation. The results showed that garlic led to a significant decrease in both blood pressure and artery stiffness, which could help reduce the long-term effects of heart disease. 

How Can You Take Garlic?

There are many forms of garlic available to use for supplementation, so no need to worry about what your breath smells like as you walk into your morning work meeting. Since the FDA does not review dietary supplements before they are marketed, there is a wide range of products with various strengths. Some forms of garlic include:

  • Capsules
  • Oil 
  • Powder
  • Raw vegetable

It is important to work with your doctor to find a form of garlic and to establish a dose that is appropriate for you since research has occurred with a wide range of dosages of garlic per day. 

The Takeaway

With heart disease being one of the biggest health crises in America, finding new strategies for treatment and prevention remains a top priority amongst healthcare providers. 

Research has shown that adding garlic supplementation into your daily diet may decrease risk factors that put you in danger of developing heart disease. While newer research has shown promising results, more studies are needed to measure long term benefits.

Before you start taking a garlic supplement, make sure you speak with your doctor or pharmacist first. Garlic supplementation should not replace medical advice or diagnosis from your healthcare provider. 

References: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention; 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Accessed July 28, 2020.

American Heart Association. What is Cardiovascular Disease? American Heart Association Guidelines;2017. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention; 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Banerjee SK, Maulik SK. Effect of garlic on cardiovascular disorders: a review. Nutr J. 2002;1:4. Published 2002 Nov 19. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-1-4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC139960/. Accessed August 04, 2020.

Wong C. The Health Benefits of Allicin Garlic’s Heart Health Booster. Very Well Health. July 06, 2020. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-allicin-88606#:~:text=Allicin%20is%20a%20compound%20produced,enzyme%2C%20alliinase%2C%20is%20released. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Ravi Varshney, Matthew J Budoff. Garlic and Heart Disease, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 146, Issue 2, February 2016, Pages 416S–421S. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.114.202333. Accessed August 04, 2020.

Maxwell, Savannah, Dickinson, Kacie. Culinary Herbs and Spices and the Effects on Cardiovascular Disease Risk factors in Adults. American Heart Association. Volume 137, Issue suppl_1, March 20, 2018. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circ.137.suppl_1.p241. Accessed August 04, 2020.

Gruenwald J, Bongartz U, Bothe G, Uebelhack R. Effects of aged garlic extract on arterial elasticity in a placebo-controlled clinical trial using EndoPAT™ technology. Exp Ther Med. 2020;19(2):1490-1499. doi:10.3892/etm.2019.8378

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