HKU researchers uncover evidence garlic is good for your blood vessels

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 5:14pm

Local researchers may have discovered further evidence of the humble garlic clove's mighty health benefits, after a study into the vegetable's effects on those who have suffered strokes.

While previous research has indicated the beneficial effects of garlic in preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancer, a University of Hong Kong team believe they were the first to describe the impact of garlic intake in improving the function of blood vessels (vascular function) in patients with ischemic stroke.

Ischemic stroke is caused by a lack of blood supply to the brain.

"Among patients with ischemic stroke, those who had a greater daily intake of garlic had better vascular function compared to those with a lower daily garlic intake," lead researcher Gary Lau Kui-kai, clinical assistant professor in neurology, said.

The team recruited 125 ischemic stroke patients, with an average age of 66, from outpatient clinics. They were asked how often they ate different kinds of food in the past five years. On average, the patients ate 2.9 grams of garlic each day.

The study found that the 58 patients who ate garlic daily had on average 6 per cent better vascular function than the 67 who did not eat garlic daily.

The disparity remained significant even taking into account variables such as age, high blood pressure, relevant medications and dietary components that effect vascular function.

"Although this may be considered a small degree of improvement, it should be noted that garlic is only one of the dietary components that may confer benefits in vascular function," Lau said.

Many components in the Mediterranean diet, including fresh fish and olive oil, are also rich sources of antioxidants and are highly advocated in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, he said.

In the study, the inner lining of the brachial artery - a major blood vessel in the upper arm - was measured in patients.

The results of the study were published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging in July.

Lau added that various studies have shown garlic has multiple protective mechanisms which can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

The World Health Organisation recommends eating two to five grams - about one clove - of fresh garlic each day.