27 Feb 2023 • 10 min read
Garlic is one of the world’s oldest and best-loved natural remedies – it has traditionally been used to reduce chance of infections, improve digestion and (of course) repel vampires.
Today, there’s an increasing amount of evidence to show it can support our heart health too. So how can this tasty ingredient help look after your ticker?
The British Heart Foundation says someone in the UK dies from heart disease every eight minutes,1 but there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself, including upping your garlic intake.
A number of studies – explored below – have found the benefits of garlic include tackling high blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and protecting against heart disease and atherosclerosis (when fatty deposits build up in the arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke).
And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of taste. A lot of the research was carried out on tablet forms, which is good news for your heart and your breath.
High blood pressure is linked to 70% of heart attacks and strokes – and 37% of cardiovascular deaths – in Western countries.2 However, in 2014 Australian scientists reported that certain nutrients in garlic, particularly a compound called allicin, release chemicals into the bloodstream that help blood vessels relax, reducing blood pressure.3
Blood pressure records the force with which the blood pushes against the artery walls: systolic pressure is the pressure during heart beats, diastolic pressure is the pressure between beats.
In a 2012 Cochrane review on the effects of garlic on high blood pressure, researchers concluded that – based on two trials in 87 patients with hypertension – ‘garlic reduces mean supine systolic and diastolic blood pressure by approximately 10-12 mmHg and 6-9 mmHg’.4
We need some cholesterol for our bodies to function normally, but too much can build up in artery walls. If this happens, in a heart disease symptom called atherosclerosis, it can slow down or even block blood flow, increasing our risk of heart attack.
However, garlic may help lower our cholesterol levels too. According to a meta-analysis of 16 trials involving 952 subjects by the University of Oxford in 1994, garlic supplements were shown to reduce total cholesterol levels by an average of 12% compared with those taking a placebo.5 Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2016 found that taking an aged garlic supplement significantly reduced the build-up of plaques in the arteries of 27 patients, but not in those taking a placebo.6