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Health News Archive 250 - Inflammation
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Garlic Prevents Inflammation, a Cause of Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that is the building block for heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease.  It affects the arteries of the brain, heart, kidneys, arms and legs by causing the buildup of either hard or soft plaque on the inside walls of the arteries. While hard plaque causes artery walls to thicken and harden, soft plaque can break apart from the walls, enter the bloodstream and cause a blood clot.

Inflammation plays an important role in both the initiation of atherosclerosis and development of atherothrombotic events. The adherence of leukocytes/monocytes to the endothelium is an early event in atherogenesis. Inflammation contributes to atherosclerosis by causing cells to "stick" to the lining of blood vessel walls while proteins called cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) help these cells migrate into the walls of blood vessels and facilitate the progression of atherosclerosis.

Because of this research, a focus on preventing inflammation may also hold the key to preventing atherosclerosis. Now a new study has found that this inflammatory process may be stopped by an age old heart-healthy food: Garlic.

As a food known to promote healing for over 5,000 years, garlic contains a tremendous amount of antioxidants and possesses anti-bacterial properties that have been shown to help prevent amoebic dysentery and gangrene.

In the study, researchers exposed human heart artery cells to garlic extract at various concentrations (0.25–4.0 mg/ml). After this exposure the cells were exposed to an inflammatory protein called human interleukin-1alpha for one day. Researchers measured garlic’s effect on inflammation by looking at levels of inflammation and the ability of cells to migrate into the lining of blood vessels.

Researchers found that the garlic extract significantly decreased this cell migration into the lining of blood vessels and significantly inhibited the sticking of cells to the human heart artery cells. The researchers concluded "These results indicate that garlic extract [decreases] the [migration of cells into blood vessel walls], thus potentially contributing to the beneficial effects traditionally attributed to garlic."

Source: Rassoul F. The influence of garlic (Allium sativum) extract on interleukin 1alpha-induced expression of endothelial intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1. Phytomedicine 2006; 13(4): 230-235.

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