The Extraordinary Heart Health Benefits of Aged Garlic Extract—An Interview with Dr. Matthew Budoff

The Extraordinary Heart Health Benefits of Aged Garlic Extract—An Interview with Dr. Matthew Budoff

—Julie Powell

Dr. Matthew Budoff is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the president of the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography, the principal investigator at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor- UCLA Medical Center and the author of more than 300 articles and four textbooks. This month, he shares some of the extraordinary research being conducted on aged garlic extract and heart health.

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. What are the main contributing factors?
I think it is a combination of predisposition and lifestyle, especially in United States where we don’t have the best balanced diet and we don’t exercise enough.

What are the main ways to maintain a healthy heart?
I like to use the ABCs of heart disease prevention.
Blood pressure control
Cholesterol control
Fish and fish oil
Garlic therapy

How can nutritional supplements support heart health? How does aged garlic extract (AGE) factor into the equation?
I think we have excellent data that fish oil and garlic have multiple therapeutic uses. Garlic therapy shows reduction in cholesterol, reduction in blood pressure and increased blood vessel health.

You were the lead author on a recent study on aged garlic extract and its ability to reduce epicardial adipose tissue (EAT). What is EAT? And what were the results of the study? This study looked at fatty buildup around the heart. We know that fat comes with the very specific problem of being metabolically active. In other words, it causes atherosclerosis and inflammation, which can lead to heart attack. Showing that you can reduce the fat around the heart would therefore be very beneficial. We found that AGE reduces fatty buildup around the heart.

You also conducted a study on firefighters with established risk factors for heart disease. What were your findings?
We just published a new study on firefighters. These firefighters had abnormal exercise results or plaque buildups. We followed them for a year on AGE or placebo. The study shows that AGE slows the progression of plaque that can lead to heart disease. Blood pressure and stress factors get better under AGE.

How do you measure the results of the studies?
We look at changes in plaque and see if the garlic group has less plaque than the placebo group. So far, each study has demonstrated significant benefit with aged garlic extract in different formulations.

How do these findings apply to the general population?
These were otherwise healthy adults who had plaque buildup, which describes the general population of the United States.

AGE can help those who already have risk factors for heart disease. Can it also be taken as a preventive measure?
Yes. Most patients in the firefighter study were treated preventively for plaque buildup rather than established heart disease.

Why should we supplement with AGE when we can just eat garlic?
The problem with garlic therapy is that it is very dependent on how you prepare it and the quantity of the garlic you eat. There is also a lot we don’t know yet; for example, we think that the odor is associated in part with the toxins. We don’t know what the oxidative stresses are or how it should be prepared.AGE is more purified, and you know exactly how much you are getting. It is easier to balance. It is harder to quantify garlic for people. Are you eating a clove or a gram, etc.,? When we do research with AGE, we have a consistent amount.

How does garlic create these cardiovascular changes? In other words, what mechanisms are at work?
No one understands the exact active compounds in garlic. That is why it has not been purified and sold as a drug by major pharmaceutical companies.

What compelled you to conduct research on AGE?
A colleague told me that there were a lot of—hundreds if not thousands—published AGE studies that were in the cardiovascular arena. It was the enormous amount of established data that drew me in.

What other health issues might be helped by AGE supplementation?
There has been research related to blood pressure, as I mentioned before, and there has been research related to cancer. AGE and antioxidants can help with early cancer prevention. There is some evidence for increased brain function as well.

Do you have more AGE studies planned in the near future?
We just started a fourth study on AGE and its effects on carotid plaque, the plaque that can travel to the brain. We will also look on soft plaque in coronary arteries.

Can you talk a little more about the upcoming study?
We are enrolling patients with the metabolic syndrome (prediabetes) and doing noninvasive angiography (looking for soft plaque) and carotid ultrasound (looking for plaque in the neck) and following them for one year to see if aged garlic extract improves soft plaque and carotid plaque.

How early should one think about supplementing with AGE? How much should one supplement with?
I have been using 1,200 mg a day in the studies, so that is the dose I generally recommend. People with risk factors (cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and family history of heart disease) would benefit the most—those are the people at risk of heart disease.

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