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NEW YORK - Though garlic is touted for heart health, new research suggests that garlic supplements have no effect on several heart disease risk factors.
In a study of 90 overweight smokers, European researchers found that those who took a garlic powder supplement for three months showed no changes in their cholesterol levels or several other markers of heart disease risk.
The study adds to the conflicting evidence on garlic and heart health.
A number of studies have found that garlic supplements might help lower blood cholesterol, and possibly blood pressure, but other studies have failed to find this evidence.
The new study looked at whether a garlic supplement could affect heart risk factors other than the usual suspects of high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Along with blood cholesterol, they measured participants' levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and other blood proteins that indicate the degree of inflammation in the arteries. They also measured several blood substances that reflect how well the blood vessel walls are working.
Both of these factors - inflammation and blood vessel function - are believed to be key in heart disease risk.
But, the study found that garlic may have no effect on them.
After three months, men and women who were assigned to take the garlic supplement showed no changes in these measures or their cholesterol levels. In contrast, those given the cholesterol drug atorvastatin (Lipitor) showed a drop not only in cholesterol, but also in levels of CRP and another inflammation marker called TNF-alpha.
This makes it "unlikely" that garlic can protect the heart by combating high cholesterol or inflammation, write the researchers, led by Martijn BA van Doorn of the Centre for Human Drug Research in Leiden, the Netherlands.
Of the 90 adults they followed, a third were randomly assigned to take 2g of the garlic supplement each day.
Another third took 40mg of Lipitor per day, and the rest were given inactive placebo pills.
Compared with the placebo group, the Lipitor group had, on average, a 53percent drop in "bad" LDL cholesterol, a 20percent dip in CRP levels and a 42percent decline in TNF-alpha.
In contrast, the garlic group showed no clear differences from the placebo group. - Reuters