Garlic - What Can It Do For You
Garlic is featured in many dishes around the world as a popular flavor, but some use garlic specifically in hopes of gaining health benefits from it. Garlic is most often used medicinally for heart health as a supplemental treatment for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaques inside arteries). Whether garlic is effective for these uses is still up for debate to many health professionals. The potential benefits of garlic stem from a compound called allicin that is naturally found in garlic, especially when it is crushed. Allicin and other similar compounds have been found to inhibit cholesterol synthesis, platelet aggregation, and vascular cell adhesion molecule expression in research laboratories, which indicates a potential cardioprotective effect in the body. Little research has been done to compare effectiveness of garlic included in food compared to garlic taken as a dietary supplement. Garlic taken in through food intake may result in increased amount of allicin in the body compared to a supplement, depending on the formulation of the supplement pill, capsule or extract. However, many people prefer taking the supplement if they wish to reduce the taste or odor associated with garlic as a food additive.
Current evidence for garlic is mixed. Overall, the evidence leans toward a small benefit at reducing total cholesterol, either by reducing some LDL (bad) cholesterol or triglycerides. Garlic may also modestly reduce blood pressure, although some studies did not find this change to be significant compared to placebo. When looking at the effect on atherosclerosis, garlic may slow the development of plaques in arteries (which can lead to poor circulation and heart attacks). Interestingly, there is some evidence that increasing food intake of garlic may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, however this evidence is still relatively weak and needs more controlled research in the area. Garlic by itself is unlikely to have a significant effect on any chronic condition management, however the potential benefits may be achieved if used in conjunction with other treatments.
There is no agreed upon dose of garlic supplement, however doses ranging from 200-500 mg up to three times daily have been used in practice. The dosage will depend on the type of product you choose, so it is best to follow the recommended dosing on the package label. Garlic supplements are generally well tolerated. Common side effects may include unpleasant breath or body odor, stomach upset, sweating, mouth/throat discomfort and facial flushing. Do not take garlic supplements if you are allergic to garlic, or you are taking blood thinners (especially warfarin) or diabetic medications as garlic can increase your risk of bleeding and affect blood sugars. Garlic supplements should be avoided during pregnancy, however normal food intake of garlic is accepted. Always consult your physician before beginning a new dietary supplement.
For more information please talk with our friendly pharmacists at Dexter Pharmacy or visit the following websites:
Michigan Medicine: http://www.uofmhealth.org/node/662413
Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
© 2017 Rebecca Sarkozi, PharmD
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