Garlic, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Health

By: Theresa Greenwell

Obese individuals are at increased risk for many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease. While a healthy diet and exercise are encouraged in order to reduce those risks, researchers are always searching for additional ways. Thanks to a recent study, it appears that garlic may benefit the cardiovascular health of obese individuals!

Garlic has a long history of use in cooking and traditional medicines.  Additionally, garlic has been studied and found to be beneficial for a wide range of health conditions such as atherosclerosis, cancer, prostate health, pre-eclampsia, alopecia (hair loss), and more.  Garlic contains the active ingredient allicin, which is the chemical that gives garlic its unique scent and appears to be that which is responsible for many of the benefits reported.

 

A recent study in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy (2018) looked at the effects of garlic on markers of endothelial function in obese individuals. Inadequate functioning of the endothelial has been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and in early-stage atherosclerosis.  Endothelium refers to the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. These form a barrier of sorts between circulating fluids and the rest of the vessel wall. This randomized, placebo-controlled study focused on how garlic supplementation affected arterial stiffness index (SI), C-reactive protein, cholesterol (total, LDL, HDL), triglycerides, other markers and antioxidant status.

 

The Study:

Inclusion criteria for participants included aged 25-60 years, BMI >25, long-term weight stability, no drug-treated hypertension and no history of heart disease.  Participants were separated into either a treatment or a control group.  The treatment group received 400 mg of garlic that was to be taken with breakfast, while the control group received a similar looking placebo. All participants were measured for body size and weight, blood pressure, arterial stiffness, plasma total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides. The study lasted 3 months. During the study, participants were instructed to continue their regular exercise and diet habits.

 

The Results:

At the end of three months, those participants who received garlic showed decreases in their arterial stiffness index, C-reactive protein, LDL cholesterol, and antioxidant status.  Those who received placebo showed no significant changes.

 

What It Means:

The results of this study showed that garlic could be beneficial for obese individuals in order to reduce the risks of certain cardiovascular-related health conditions and chronic inflammation. These results further support other studies that show garlic being beneficial for coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke.

 

As this study had a relatively small number of participants, more research with a greater number of people is necessary. Additionally, these participants were free of known heart-related diseases or health problems, so the effect of garlic supplementation on those with already existing endothelial dysfunction is not known. Future research may wish to focus on individuals of all sizes with existing health-related conditions in order to see if garlic supplementation may be beneficial as an adjunct treatment for those with pre-existing conditions.

 

 

Resources:

Szulinska, M., et al. Garlic extract favorably modifies markers of endothelial function in obese patients – randomized double blind placebo-controlled nutritional intervention.  Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 102, p. 792-797. 2018.