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Can Heart Disease Be Prevented and Reversed?

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Can Garlic Help Prevent Heart Disease?

Being the edible bulb from a plant in the lily family, garlic is widely used as a seasoning or condiment worldwide for its pungent flavor. A tiny amount of it can add a delicious savory flavor to the food without adding any fat or calories. For people who need to cut back on sodium, garlic can be a good alternative for sodium without sacrificing the taste of food.

In additional to its culinary uses, garlic has been used to treat illness and disease for thousands of years. Ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India each prescribed medical application for garlic. In ancient Chinese medicine, garlic was prescribed to aid respiration and digestion, most importantly diarrhea and worm infestation.

Some people believe garlic can help cure common cold faster, help reduce cold sores, aid in the treatment of acne, banish mosquitos and even improve the texture of the hair. To date, many favorable experimental and clinical effects of garlic preparations, including garlic extract, have been reported. These biological responses have been largely attributed to reduction of risk factors for cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer, stimulation of immune function, enhanced detoxification of foreign compound, and antioxidant effect.

Allicin is the major biologically active component of garlic, and it is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell. Research showed that allicin may have lipid-lowering, anti-blood coagulation, anti-hypertension, anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-microbial effects. Many clinical studies have reported that garlic/allicin has the ability lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, and raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). This would in turn assist the prevention of stroke and heart disease. Furthermore, garlic/allicin may support the overall health of the circulatory system that may also help in lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Garlic is believed to reduce blood pressure by causing smooth muscle relaxation and vasodilatation (widening of blood vessels) following the relaxation of smooth muscle in the vessel wall) by activating the production of endothelium-derived relaxation factor. High blood pressure is one of the most important drivers of heart disease and stroke. It is known that a downward shift of 3 mmHg in SBP (systolic blood pressure) decreases the mortality from stroke by 8 percent and from ischemic heart disease by 5 percent.

High doses of garlic (amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about 4 cloves of garlic per day) appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure. In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications. A study indicated that aged garlic extract at doses of 600-1,500 mg was just as effective as the drug Atenolol at reducing blood pressure over a 24-week period. In 1994, one meta-analysis suggested that garlic powder preparation may be of some clinical use in subjects with mild hypertension. But researchers admitted that there is still insufficient evidence to recommend it as a routine clinical therapy for the treatment of hypertensive patients. More rigorously designed and analyzed trials are needed for firm conclusion.

Currently, garlic is used as a dietary supplement for many purposes, including high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the common cold, as well as in attempts to prevent cancer and other diseases. Nevertheless, one should not expect to experience all of the benefits mentioned by just boosting the garlic consumption. This is because scientists have not established a direct cause and effect relationship between garlic and these benefits. In fact, some studies have even concluded that the benefits of garlic have been overstated.

While garlic is probably safe for most people in the amounts usually eaten in foods. Side effects include breath and body odor, heartburn, and upset stomach. These side effects can be more noticeable with raw garlic. Some people can have allergic reactions to garlic. Taking garlic may increase the risk of bleeding. Hence, people who take an anticoagulant (blood thinner) such as warfarin or need surgery should tell their doctors whether they are taking or planning to take garlic dietary supplements.




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