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A review of the world's scientific literature shows that garlic is a food, not a medicine.

Large amounts of garlic can lower cholesterol and triglycerides a small bit, but after taking it for 6 months, cholesterol levels return to their previous levels. Garlic has not been shown to lower high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels. Why then do we hear so much about the health benefits of garlic? To sell their products, entrepreneurs stress only the studies showing benefits. Garlic does contain chemicals such as allicin that help lower cholesterol, but medications have to be dosed exactly, and the concentration in food varies from crop to crop and season to season. Too much is a poison, while too little is ineffective. Since no government agency insures proper dosing, there is a huge variation in the concentration of allicin and other chemicals in garlic products and therefore you cannot depend on them for health benefits.

Compared with placebo, garlic preparations may lead to small reductions in the total cholesterol level at 1 month (range of average pooled reductions, 0.03-0.45 mmol/L [1.2-17.3 mg/dL]) and at 3 months (range of average pooled reductions 0.32-0.66 mmol/L [12.4-25.4 mg/dL]), but not at 6 months, Changes in low-density lipoprotein levels and triglyceride levels paralleled total cholesterol level results; no statistically significant changes in high-density lipoprotein levels were observed. Proven adverse effects included malodorous breath and body odor. Other unproven effects included flatulence, esophageal and abdominal pain, allergic reactions, and bleeding. Trials suggest possible small short-term benefits of garlic on some lipid and antiplatelet factors, insignificant effects on blood pressure, and no effect on glucose levels. Conclusions regarding clinical significance are Limited by the marginal quality and short duration of many trials and by the unpredictable release and inadequate definition of active constituents in study preparations.

Garlic shows promise for improving some cardiovascular risk factors. RT Ackermann, CD Mulrow, G Ramirez, CD Gardner, L Morbidoni, VA Lawrence. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2001, Vol 161, Iss 6, pp 813-824Address: Mulrow CD, Audie L Murphy Mem Vet Hosp, Vet Evidence Based Res Disseminat Implementat Ctr, 7400 Merton Minter Blvd 11C6, San Antonio,TX 78284 USA

Checked 8/31/05

May 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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