Background: Non-pharmacological treatment options for hypertension have the potential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease at a population level. Animal studies have suggested that garlic reduces blood pressure, but primary studies in humans and non-systematic reviews have reported mixed results. With interest in complementary medicine for hypertension increasing, it is timely to update a systematic review and meta-analysis from 1994 of studies investigating the effect of garlic preparations on blood pressure.
Methods: We searched the Medline and Embase databases for studies published between 1955 and October 2007. Randomised controlled trials with true placebo groups, using garlic-only preparations, and reporting mean systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP) and standard deviations were included in the meta-analysis. We also conducted subgroup meta-analysis by baseline blood pressure (hypertensive/normotensive), for the first time. Meta-regression analysis was performed to test the associations between blood pressure outcomes and duration of treatment, dosage, and blood pressure at start of treatment.
Results: Eleven of 25 studies included in the systematic review were suitable for meta-analysis. Meta-analysis of all studies showed a mean decrease of 4.6 +/- 2.8 mm Hg for SBP in the garlic group compared to placebo (n = 10; p = 0.001), while the mean decrease in the hypertensive subgroup was 8.4 +/- 2.8 mm Hg for SBP (n = 4; p < 0.001), and 7.3 +/- 1.5 mm Hg for DBP (n = 3; p < 0.001). Regression analysis revealed a significant association between blood pressure at the start of the intervention and the level of blood pressure reduction (SBP: R = 0.057; p = 0.03; DBP: R = -0.315; p = 0.02).
Conclusion: Our meta-analysis suggests that garlic preparations are superior to placebo in reducing blood pressure in individuals with hypertension.