Purpose: To gain further insight into the strength of evidence and extent of possible biases in the scope of studies investigating the impact of garlic and garlic supplement intake on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, we performed an umbrella review of all published meta-analyses synthesizing data from both observational studies and randomized controlled trials.
Methods: Electronic database PubMed (between 1966 and June 2015) was searched for systematic reviews and meta-analyses using following search terms: ("garlic" OR "allium sativum" OR "allicin" OR "organosulfur") AND ("cardiovascular" OR "coronary" OR "cholesterol" OR "triglyceride" OR "atherosclerosis" OR "blood pressure" OR "hypertension" OR "blood glucose") AND ("systematic review" OR "meta-analysis"), with no restriction to calendar data and language. Hand-search of reference lists and relevant clinical guidelines was performed as well.
Results: Nine systematic reviews investigated the effects of garlic on lipid parameters and eight systematic reviews analyzed the effects on blood pressure parameters were identified. Eight of nine meta-analyses synthesizing the effect of garlic on blood lipids reported significantly decreased total cholesterol levels. Inconsistent results could be detected for HDL-cholestrol, LDL-cholesterol, and triacylglycerols. The effect of garlic on systolic blood pressure showed consistent results across publications with 7 out of 8 meta-analyses demonstrating a substantial decrease in systolic blood pressure. Similar results could be reported regarding the effect of garlic on diastolic blood pressure, i.e. 6 out of 8 meta-analyses detected significant reductions in diastolic blood pressure levels following interventions with garlic.
Conclusion: According to the data summarized in the present umbrella review, garlic preparations as well as garlic exerted some positive effects on indicators and biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, typically without causing any serious side effects. However, with regard to the substantial heterogeneities between the different trials enrolled in the various meta-analyses of this review, a conservative interpretation of the outcome seems to be appropriate.
Keywords: Blood lipids; Blood pressure; Cardiovascular disease; Garlic; Umbrella review.
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