Garlic may protect the heart after heart surgery

Raw garlic consumption may help limit the damage done to the heart after surgery because if its natural antioxidant properties, according to a new study published in BMC Pharmacology.

After a heart attack it is important to restore the flow of blood to the heart so that damage to the heart muscle can be minimised. However, the return of blood flow can paradoxically cause further damage, so called “ischemic-reperfusion injury, due to the release of free radicals. Free radicals cause oxidative stress to the heart cells, resulting in reduced cardiac function and irreversible tissue injury. This can be potentially fatal to patients undergoing heart surgery to remove clots or repair heart defects.

Antioxidants, which can “mop up” free radicals before they do any harm, have been shown to reduce the severity of damage to the heart. However, the therapeutic use of antioxidants is limited by their toxicity. In light of several recent studies showing that garlic can limit the depletion of natural heart antioxidants, a research team from India designed a study to investigate whether garlic could protect against oxidative stress in rats.

The team found that regular consumption of raw garlic prevented oxidative stress and the resulting tissue damage. Rats that were given a consistent diet of garlic were found to have much higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of the chemicals that accompany oxidative stress. The damage to their hearts following ischemic-reperfusion injury was also significantly lower. Further studies in humans are needed, but the authors conclude that garlic has important potential to save the lives of patients undergoing heart surgery.

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