The first thought that comes to mind when I think of garlic are the old black-and-white movies where the heroine runs around with a garlic necklace to ward off attacks of vampires - or, was that werewolves? Regardless, it turns out that garlic may ward off more than just approaches hordes of zombies, vampires, and werewolves; it may also ward off cardiomyopathy (a type of heart disease) in persons with diabetes.
In 2007, the American Diabetes Association estimates indicated that nearly 8 percent (nearly 24 million) of the entire population of the United States alone has diabetes. Estimates are that an additional 57 million persons have pre-diabetes as well. Not only does diabetes rank in the top ten leading causes of death, persons with diabetes are also particular susceptible when it comes to heart disease. Estimates are that 70-80 percent of all deaths from diabetes are heart-disease related. Overall, persons with diabetes have a risk factor for heart disease that is two-to-four times greater than non-diabetics.
Persons with diabetes are at particular risk for developing cardiomyopathy, a heart disease which causes the heart muscle to become inflamed, enlarge and weaken. The cardiomyopathy damaged heart is left unable to do its job properly - naming pumping and delivering blood. Often asymptomatic until the disease has progressed, cardiomyopathy leads to heart failure, blood clots, heart murmurs, cardiac arrest, and even sudden death.
The risks of developing cardiomyopathy can be lessened somewhat by lifestyle changes (stop smoking, diet, exercise, and so forth). According to the results of a Chinese/Taiwanese study, researchers now believe that garlic may also provide some heart protective benefits to persons with diabetes. Garlic is known for its powerful antioxidant powers. Antioxidants fight free radicals which cause inflammation and lead to heart damage.
In the study, diabetes induced laboratory rats were evaluated to see if a diet supplemented by garlic provided any protective benefits to the heart as compared to those on normal diets. At the end of a 16-day period, all rats showed high levels of blood glucose, weight loss, and decreased heart rate. Researchers found that in the group of rats receiving garlic oil supplements, the heart rate was reversed when taking garlic oil. Overall, rats receiving garlic oil supplement showed better heart function (output) than their counterparts.
It’s thought that the apparent heart healthy benefits observed were the result of garlic’s antioxidant properties. Researchers concluded that “garlic oil possesses significant potential for protecting hearts from diabetes-induced cardiomyopathy.” So, the next time you see a string of fresh garlic at the store, put it in your basket and take it home - you might just be protecting yourself from cardiomyopathy (as well as vampires and werewolves).
Mary Kyle is a freelance writer, editor, and project manager. She has a Master of Arts in Legal Studies, a Bachelor of Music, and multiple professional certifications in project management. In addition to health advocacy, she is passionate about literacy and volunteers in local schools teaching writing seminars and reading.
Cardiomyopathy, The Mayo Clinic, 05 Mar 2010, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cardiomyopathy/DS00519
Garlic oil shows protective effect against heart disease in diabetes, Breakthrough Digest Medical News, 29 Sept 2010, http://www.breakthroughdigest.com/medical-news/garlic-oil-shows-protective-effect-against-heart-disease-in-diabetes/#more-17085
Diabetes Statistics, American Diabetes Association, http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/
Cardiac Contractile Dysfunction and Apoptosis in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats are Ameliorated by Garlic Oil Supplementation, Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 13 Sept 2010, http://pubs.acs.org/journal/jafcau