Expert: Garlic extract can play a role in heart health, but guard against extremes

BY SANDRA GUY

Research shows that natural remedies may be worth a try if you’re trying to reduce inflammation and blood pressure – leading to greater heart health.

Although human trials are either mixed or not yet active, experts say your health routine could benefit from extracts of bilberry, garlic, the hawthorn berry, ginkgo biloba and Omega-3.

Five randomized trials have shown aged garlic extract helps reduce dangerous plaque build-up in one’s arteries and can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, said Dr. Matthew Budoff, a principal investigator at the Lundquist Institute, a 70-year-old medical research lab in Torrance, California.
One nice benefit is that the supplement is odorless, Budoff noted.

In one study, 55 patients ages 40-75 who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome were given either a placebo or a dose of 2,400 milligrams of aged garlic extract every day. The syndrome’s conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist.

A follow-up screening a year after the initial screening revealed the people who’d taken the aged garlic extract had slowed their total plaque accumulation by 80 percent and reduced their soft plaque accumulation, according to the study in the Journal of Nutrition.

Other potentially heart-healthy supplements include:

• Omega 3, a fish oil derivative, has been shown to reduce cardiovascular events, Budoff said. The best validated is a prescription therapy shown to reduce cardiac events – incidents that can damage the heart muscle, he said. Such events can include heart fluttering, chest pain and shortness of breath.

• A non-prescription dietary supplement called
hawthorn, which comes from a flowering tree or shrub of the rose family. Animal studies have shown the supplement can relax constricted blood vessels.

• Bilberries, often called English blueberries, contain antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.

• Ginkgo-biloba can reduce inflammation, but experts caution that people should first consult their doctors before taking it.
Budoff cautioned against extreme diets or other measures.

“There’s not one diet fits all,” he said. “And diets that are quiet extreme are not sustainable. By definition, they don’t work.”’
Budoff, a cardiologist for more than two decades, said neither eating a caveman diet of pure protein or a pure vegan diet is healthy.

“There’s nothing about our physiology or tooth structure that says we can be sustained by vegetables only,” he said.

“This is truly a marathon,” Budoff said of heart-healthy lifestyle changes. “It’s about changing behaviors for life.”

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