Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Why We Should Eat Garlic

Whether you love the taste of garlic or can't stand it, or just see it as over-hyped, there's no denying the multitude of health benefits demonstrated in the scientific literature.

So what can garlic do, besides smelling terrible/fantastic? Well, research shows that garlic reduces many of the risk factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke. In fact, Penn State researchers note studies connecting garlic use with a 38% reduce risk of heart problems. In a four-year clinical trial in Germany, garlic resulted in a reduction of the risk of heart attack and stroke by over 50%! On average, the volume of arteriosclerotic plaque was reduced by 18%.

Garlic may also protect against arterial calcification. A study from UCLA randomised 60 subjects to receive either a placebo or a supplement containing 250mg of aged garlic extract (AGE), 100ug of vitamin-B12, 300ug of folic acid (B9), 12.5mg of vitamin B6, and 100mg of L-arginine. After one year, the risks of coronary artery calcium progression were significantly lower in the supplement group compared to the placebo group.  Researchers also found an increase in beneficial brown fat around the heart muscle, which produces energy and is not associated with a higher risk of calcification, unlike white fat. Another randomised, placebo-controlled study from UCLA looked at the effects of AGE in patients on statin drugs.  For one year, patients took either a placebo or 4 ml of AGE.  At the end of the year, the rate of coronary calcification was 3 times slower for those taking the AGE, though you may be able to do more than just slowing it down if AGE is not the sole component of the treatment plan. As for the common complaint of high blood pressure, in a study on stroke patients researchers were able to accurately predict blood flow based on the amount of garlic the patients were eating - less garlic meant poorer circulation.

Garlic is also widely known for its ability to fight infections. In one study comparing garlic to metronidazole in treating vaginal infections, women received either two 500mg garlic tablets or two 250mg doses of metronidazole every day.  After seven days the garlic tablets reduced the active infection by 70%, compared to 48% for metronidazole. While garlic had no negative side effects, metronidazole is a "probable carcinogen" with a wide range of side effects including nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and abdominal pain. As for the common cold,
the Cochrane Collaboration in Australia documented a study in which garlic reduced the incidence of colds by more than 50%. Researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic supplement that was standardised to 180mg of allicin, the compound that gives garlic its pungent smell. After 12 weeks, the placebo group had 65 total colds, while the garlic group had only 24. In addition, the placebo group had a total of 366 sick days, compared to 111 in the garlic group. Garlic may also reduce the severity of cold symptoms. In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave 120 people either a placebo or 2.5g per day of an AGE supplement. Over six months, the garlic group had 58% fewer colds and suffered from 61% fewer days with colds. The garlic group also had 21% fewer symptoms when they did catch a cold. 

On top of all this, garlic naturally reduces blood and tissue concentrations of lead - just as effectively as a common chelation drug. In a study published in the journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, garlic (as 1.2mg of allicin) was compared to the chelation drug known as d-penicillamine in 117 workers at a car battery plant. After four weeks, both the drug and the garlic significantly reduced lead concentrations in the blood by about the same amount.  But the garlic also improved clinical symptoms, significantly reducing irritability, headaches, deep tendon reflex, and systolic blood pressure, while the drug had serious side effects. Overall, garlic isn't overrated, but it is how you cook with it that counts, as usual.

(References on GMI article)

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