Humans love variety in their food, and have found numerous ways to enliven it. Spices of various sorts have been used to give food an interesting flavor. Many of these additives have also been used medicinally. But skeptics would like to know more. Just how good is the evidence to support their use? In particular, a reader would like to know: could garlic really lower your blood pressure? It is, after all, an extremely popular food with a reputation as strong as its aroma.
Does Garlic Really Lower Your Blood Pressure?
Q. Does garlic have health benefits? I have heard that it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Is there any evidence to support such claims?
A. A six-year study in Iran recently found that people who eat onions and garlic frequently are 64 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke (Bahadoran et al, Journal of Hypertension, Sep., 2017). They were also 26 percent less likely to get a new diagnosis of high blood pressure.
Such epidemiological research is interesting, but clinical trials offer stronger evidence. Another review of the health benefits of garlic noted that randomized clinical trials show that aged garlic extract is more effective than placebo in lowering blood pressure (Cicero, Fogacci & Colletti, Food & Function, June 21, 2017). Garlic may also lower cholesterol modestly. An Iranian study revealed that garlic mixed with lemon juice lowered total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol (Aslani et al, International Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 29, 2016).
Garlic in the Mediterranean Diet:
Some scientists are excited by the prospect that spices such as garlic may contribute significantly to the health of certain dietary patterns (Tapsell et al, Medical Journal of Australia, Aug. 21, 2006). After all, it is possible that some of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are due to its generous use of garlic for flavoring. You can learn much more about garlic and the health benefits of other herbs and spices in our book, Spice Up Your Health.