Organization Says Science Supports Benefits of Garlic
Research in 4-Year Study Shows Herb Can Prevent or Reverse Plaque Buildup in Arteries
Austin, Tx. September 28, 2000 - A science organization dealing with medicinal herbs says that despite some recent research questioning the value of the popular herb garlic in lowering cholesterol levels, there are still good reasons why consumers should continue its use.
A review article published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at University of Exeter in England analyzed 13 clinical studies of garlic on about 800 people. The authors found in the meta-analysis, a statistical review of clinical trials, that garlic supplementation lowered total cholesterol significantly more than a placebo (dummy pill), about four to six percent. In garlic studies where diet was also modified, there was not a significant difference of cholesterol levels between the garlic and placebo groups. The authors noted that changes in diet can lower total cholesterol up to 5 percent
after about six months while conventional statin drugs can lower cholesterol around 17 percent. Previous meta-analyses on garlic have concluded that the herb can lower total cholesterol levels an average of nine to twelve percent.
The British researchers concluded that garlic is superior to placebo in reducing cholesterol levels, but that the size of this effect is modest and the "robustness of the effect is debatable" and thus of "questionable value" from a clinical perspective.
However, before consumers stop taking their garlic capsules, they should consider other well-documented cardiovascular benefits of the herb, says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC), a scientific research and education organization.
Blumenthal pointed to a four-year study published last year in the journal Atherosclerosis, where researchers studied 152 subjects who were diagnosed with significant plaque buildup and at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor (i.e., high LDL levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, history of smoking). The increase of arterial plaque on the walls of arteries reduces the overall volume of blood circulation thereby increasing the probability of raised blood pressure levels. This
can lead to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke.
In this study those people who used 900 mg of a leading German garlic supplement (Kwai ) experienced a lowering of plaque levels (down an average of 2.6 percent) while those in the control group actually experienced an increase in plaque volume (up an average of 15.6 percent). The researchers wrote, "These results substantiated that not only a preventive but possibly also a curative role in arteriosclerosis therapy (plaque regression) may be ascribed to garlic remedies."
"The results of this study are highly significant," Blumenthal noted, "and constitute a reasonable basis for increased ingestion of garlic as a conventional food and continued use of garlic in dietary supplement form, especially for people who may have a high risk of plaque-related cardiovascular disease."
Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most popular herbs in the U.S. marketplace, ranking fourth in herb sales in mainstream retail outlets. Last year sales of garlic products in mainstream stores declined about nine percent from $84,705,720 in 1998 to $77,156,048 in 1999, according to HerbalGram, the journal of ABC and the Herb Research Foundation.
Founded in 1988 in Austin, Texas, the American Botanical Council is the leading independent nonprofit research and education organization that educates the public on the responsible and scientific use of medicinal plants. HerbalGram has been published since 1983 as a reliable and authoritative source of herb and medicinal plant research, regulatory and market issues, native plant conservation and other general interest aspects of herb use. Information for consumers and healthcare professionals about herbal medicine may be found on the organization's website www.herbalgram.org.
Stevinson, C. et al. Garlic for Treating Hypercholesterolemia: A
Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Annals of Internal Medicine
Koscielny, J. et al. The antiatherosclerotic effect of Allium sativum.
Atherosclerosis 1999; 144(1):237-249.