Here’s good news for the estimated 40 percent of middle-aged Americans who suffer from atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries) and those who love them. In fact, let’s broaden that good news to include women at low to intermediate risk of cardiovascular disease since atherosclerosis is a risk factor for this disease. Results of two recent studies found that aged garlic extract (AGE) can be helpful in improving wound healing in individuals with atherosclerosis and in reducing levels of two important inflammatory factors involved in the development of atherosclerosis.
Profile of atherosclerosis
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease and stroke) is the number one cause of death globally. Atherosclerosis is a serious cardiovascular condition in which the walls of the arteries narrow and become stiff because of plaque accumulation.
Plaque is composed of cholesterol, calcium, cell waste, and fibrin, a blood-clotting material that interferes with the function of the lining of arteries. It typically takes years for plaque to build up in the arteries and over time the amount of blood that can flow through these blood vessels declines. While mild to moderate atherosclerosis doesn’t cause symptoms, the situation can escalate to a point in which the affected arteries are severely blocked.
If a plaque bursts, a blood clot may form and either block the artery or travel to other areas of the body. Complications from a blood clot can include heart attack, stroke, erectile dysfunction, loss of limbs due to poor wound healing, vascular dementia, disability, or death.
What causes atherosclerosis?
Plaque doesn’t just happen to appear in your arteries. The trigger, according to researchers, is chronic inflammation in your body. When your artery walls are damaged, the immune system releases cytokines (inflammatory molecules) to the injured areas to help. However, instead of helping, components of plaque accumulate at the sites. Over time, more and more plaque builds up, which in turn causes more inflammation. The cycle continues and the integrity of the arteries is further compromised. The chances of plaque breaking off and causing a heart attack or other complication increase and blood flow is reduced to other parts of the body.
How aged garlic extract can help
Many experts have explored the effects of aged garlic extract on factors involved in atherosclerosis and other heart health and cardiovascular conditions. One such study was conducted at Skane University Hospital and Lund University in Sweden. The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, which appeared in the International Wound Journal, involved 93 individuals with coronary artery atherosclerosis. They were assigned to take either 2,400 mg AGE or a placebo daily for 12 months. All of the participants had their peripheral tissue perfusion measured at the beginning of the trial and at the end so the authors could determine changes in blood circulation in the capillaries in the extremities.
Those who took AGE showed a 21.6 percent increase in circulation compared with those who took a placebo. Since adequate blood and oxygen delivery is critical for tissue repair, it was concluded that AGE “may enable improved wound healing in patients with atherosclerosis.” The authors also noted that the use of AGE improved the lining of blood vessels.
In the second study, which was conducted by the same entities, a team of scientists conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study involving 29 women who had a low to intermediate risk of cardiovascular disease. The women were assigned to take either 2,400 mg AGE or a placebo daily for 12 months.
The scientists measured levels of two important inflammatory biomarkers—interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein—at the beginning and end of the study. Although levels of both biomarkers were similar among all participants at the start of the trial, they were quite different at the end.
Concentrations of interleukin-6 were significantly lower in the AGE group compared with the placebo group. The decline in interleukin-6 is important because higher blood levels of this biomarker can trigger the production of C-reactive protein in the liver, which in turn supports inflammation in the arteries and the development of atherosclerosis.
Aged garlic extract appears to offer some important benefits in individuals who have atherosclerosis or who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Given the significant prevalence of this cardiovascular risk factor and its often dire consequences, the use of aged garlic extract may be a welcome addition to the list of management options.
[Editor: Wakunaga of America has a complete line of Kyolic aged garlic extract products formulated with Aged Garlic Extract to optimize cardiovascular health.]