a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)

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Week: 601.6 Pt.b 

Guest: Dr. Gustav Belz, Prof. Med, University of Mainz (Germany) 

Topic: Good news on garlic 

Host/Producer: Steve Girard 

NEMA: Researchers have found that taking a daily supplement of garlic...in the diet too...can help keep cholesterol lower. Now, more news that garlic supplements seems to help keep blood vessels more flexible...and that's good for heart health. We're talking with Dr. Gustav Belz, who conducted the study involving use of the supplement called Kwai... 

BELZ: Usually, when people get older, the aorta...and also the other vessels, lose elasticity. They get hard, they get stiff. The point was now, we evaluated a group of 100 people who, over a period of at least two years, had been taking the Kwai garlic powder tablets. And we recorded, for every one of these...a kind of twin, a scientific twin. A person same age, same weight, same sex, and we compared the elasticity of the aorta in these two groups...and we found that there was a very strong effect in the garlic group, in so far as the hardening of the arteries was significantly delayed. They also got some hardening of the arteries, but the same level was reached only 15 years later. 

NEMA: Not wanting to stay away from the science of it...what is it in garlic that helps with elasticity? 

BELZ: The main active principal, so as to say the leading substance is probably aleisine. Aleisine and its precursor alaine is probably that substance which makes most of the effect...perhaps there are others. The complete natural product, which is garlic powder, is exerting several effects...we call that plaeotropic, plaeotropism. It is not only that we say it's a cholesterol lowering...there are other effects, which maybe not strong as a synthetic drugs, if you compare it...but it goes in the same direction. Then at the end, what we found was that the stiffening of the aorta, the hardening of the aorta, was delayed. 

NEMA: What is the importance of keeping the artery walls flexible? 

BELZ: If you imagine that the blood is ejected from the left chamber of the heart, and now, with a wickedly high pressure, with a strong impulse...it's like a shock wave, which is induced. And the aorta is like a buffer, behind the left ventricle...the aorta has a cushioning function, so it is elastic. It stores part of the blood, and these are then propagated into the periphery during diastole. So, it continuous blood stream is induced, and the heart is protected against stress, against too much pressure, and also the circulation...the coronary circulation, which is very important, as all of you know. This is mainly during diastole...this is an additional effect. So, a good elastic function of the aorta is very important for a good blood circulation in general. 

NEMA: Though your study used a commercial brand of garlic powder tablets, do you believe that eating more whole garlic...raw or in cooking, is also very valuable? 

BELZ: There's no doubt. You know, we have not evaluated this...because in the study we needed a standardized amount of a standardized product. But we know from epidemiology, from the Mediterranean area, etcetera...where people traditionally used much garlic in their food - there was significant effect also of garlic in food. However, that was more difficult, because it was not standardized, and the garlic... depending on the soil where It's grown, which may contain more or less of the active principal (ingredient)...and in addition, of course, the odor problem. is much more when you eat garlic...when you chew it...and in some societies, this would not be accepted. 

NEMA: When someone is looking for a garlic supplement, how can you tell the quality of the product? 

BELZ: If for instance, you consider that some of these preparations, which in Germany are on the market, are no longer garlic powder. They are extracts, or they have been modified, etcetera... So, you never can be sure whether they are effective at all. One has to prove that. 

NEMA: The study conducted by Dr. Belz included 202 non-smokers between 50 and 80 years of age. One half took 300 milligrams of powdered garlic. If you want to read more on garlic and its effect on blood vessel elasticity, you can check out the October 21st issue of Circulation...which is the official journal of the American Heart Association, or take a look at the October 6th issue of The Lancet, a medicine journal based in Britain. If you're looking for a good garlic supplement, look for one that uses pure garlic powder...and of course there will be ingredients that suppress the odor, too. It smells so good when I cook Italian...how can it be bad on the breath? What...why are you backing away... 

NEMA: Coming up in future Heart of the Matter shows: Lots of sleep. We'll have experts who tell us practical ways of getting to sleep...our kids too! We'll also talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder...which can happen to many of us when the days get shorter, and we don't get enough light.... 

Thanks for joining us for today's program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.org/...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.