Since at least the time of Hippocrates (5th century BCE), garlic’s medicinal properties have been revered. We now understand that most of those medicinal benefits stem from a specific organosulfur compound, allicin, which is also the source of garlic’s pungent aroma. Let’s find out what makes garlic so important for good health.
Garlic is really good for your heart
Human research studies have confirmed that garlic holds great promise as a heart-healthy addition to the diet. Garlic significantly reduces blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, in part because its antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and increase production of antioxidant enzymes in the body. Allicin interferes with angiotensin II, which causes increases in blood pressure.
Garlic has proven as effective as some anti-hypertensive drugs in clinical studies! However, you would need to consume about four cloves a day to derive equivalent benefits.
In addition to its effect on elevated blood pressure, garlic also lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (very slightly), and may increase HDL, “good cholesterol,” slightly. Moderate garlic consumption reduces total cholesterol an impressive 15%! Garlic has also been shown to block LDL oxidation, a key step in the progression of heart disease.
Diallyl trisulfide, a compound in garlic oil, confers further protective benefits. Recent research at Emory University in Atlanta suggests that diallyl trisulfide may be useful in cases of heart failure. Other researchers believe that the compound could prove useful in protecting diabetics from the debilitating effects of cardiomyopathy.
Garlic already has been shown to reduce arterial stiffness and improve endothelial function. The pungent herb’s polysulfides are converted to gaseous hydrogen sulfide (HS) by red blood cells, and HS has a potent vasodilatory effect, relaxing the smooth muscle enclosing arterial walls and further lowering blood pressure.
Not surprisingly, garlic may also aid athletic performance, though the results are equivocal. When garlic oil was administered for eight weeks, subjects in one test saw heart rates decline 12% as their capacity for exercise increased! However, competitive cyclists in a separate test saw no improvement in performance from garlic oil supplementation.
Okay, so garlic is heart healthy, but what else can it do?
New research suggests that a compound in garlic — 1,2-vinyldithiin — may reduce inflammation and prevent the formation of adipocytes (fat cells)! Garlic’s vitamin B-6 also helps reduce homocysteine, another marker of inflammation, and its selenium is a cofactor for glutathione peroxidase, a major antioxidant enzyme. Garlic is especially rich in the trace mineral manganese — six cloves supply 15% of the daily requirement but have only 27 calories — a cofactor for superoxide dismutase, another antioxidant enzyme.
Research has consistently demonstrated that garlic decreases the frequency of upper respiratory infections and the duration of flu infection.
Some evidence suggests that garlic’s allyl sulfides may help protect against almost all cancers by activating a cytoplasmic factor — NRF2 — that enters the nucleus and regulates transcription of genes responsible for directing checkpoints in the cell cycle. Research has been promising.
You don’t have to wait until all the results are in. You can crush a clove of garlic and add it to your salad this evening, and begin reaping the benefits. It may not keep vampires away, as was once believed, but there are scarier things in this world than vampires, real things. Eat well, move often, and live long!
CATEGORIES: Heart Health, Superfood, Natural Remedies, Immunity, Garlic