Many nutrients are protective of cardiovascular disease. Some offer more benefits that others. However, when it comes to bang for your bucks, nothing really beats garlic. Garlic is a superfood, and is known to possess a number of health benefits. In particular its ability to improve the function of the cardiovascular system is very well researched. Study after study attests to the beneficial protective effects of garlic against cardiovascular disease.
Within the last few decades modern science has reported a plethora of data that show the health benefit of garlic. However, this is not new information as the healing properties of garlic have been known to civilization for thousands of years. Garlic is actually part of a family of plants that include shallots, onions, chives, scallions and leeks. These plants all possess similar properties, but garlic appears to be the most beneficial due to its concentrated phytochemicals.
Garlic contains very high concentrations of organosulphur compounds. These include allicin and ajoene. These chemicals give garlic its characteristic odor and taste. Garlic may contain hundreds of structurally similar organosulphur compounds that have medicinal effects. Many of these products are short lived volatile compounds that are only released upon crushing the garlic. Because they are short lived, supplements may not have the same effects as fresh garlic.
Garlic is also rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are interesting nutritionally because evidence suggest they are cardioprotective. Oxidative stress is implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids may be beneficial in this respect because they are potent antioxidants that have the ability to decrease oxidative stress. Flavonoids may also prevent free radical induced damage to the endothelium, and thus have blood pressure lowering effects.
Garlic possesses cholesterol lowering effects. The exact reason for this is not known but it is thought that water soluble chemicals within garlic are able to inhibit the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, the rate limiting step in cholesterol formation. By inhibiting this enzyme garlic may reduce the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. This in turn may decrease the amount of cholesterol available for lipoproteins and thus reduce blood cholesterol levels.
The mistake modern medicine repeatedly makes is the belief that it can find a magic bullet. Nature consistently outperforms man’s attempts to find drugs (which in reality are all derived from plants anyway) because it does not follow this approach. Garlic is such an effective cardioprotective substance because it contains a number of different compounds that act synergistically so that the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole.