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August 4, 2009

Garlic for a Healthy Heart? Go Fresh, Study Says

Much has been made of the benefits of eating garlic, but often left out of the discussion is what kind of garlic to eat. Is fresh-crushed better than paste or pre-peeled cloves? What about garlic powder? How about just popping a garlic pill?

A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine suggests that for certain elements of cardiac health, fresh-crushed is better than processed.

Subhendu Mukherjee, Dipak K. Das and colleagues prepared garlic slurries containing about two ounces of garlic (10 to 20 cloves, depending on size) in about a cup and a half of water. Two slurries were made, one with fresh-crushed garlic and the other with garlic that had been crushed but left to dry for two days, allowing hydrogen sulfide and other volatile chemicals to dissipate.

Small amounts of the slurries were force-fed to laboratory rats for 30 days, after which the animals were sacrificed and their hearts put through tests. The findings were published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The researchers found that while both slurries provided some cardioprotective benefits, the hearts of rats that had eaten the fresh-crushed garlic had less damage and better recovery after blood flow was restricted for 30 minutes. Among other things, the fresh-crushed garlic was better at suppressing chemicals that act as a “death signal” for heart muscle cells.