For many years, it’s been thought that supplementing with garlic was a safe and natural way to lower elevated cholesterol levels. It was believed that sulfur-containing compounds found in garlic acted directly on the liver to decrease synthesis of cholesterol. In fact, this is a similar mechanism by which commonly used prescription medications such as statins lower elevated cholesterol levels. Although the action of garlic wasn’t thought to be powerful enough to replace prescription strength cholesterol lowering medications, it was thought that reductions in cholesterol levels of from ten to fifteen percent were possible using supplemental garlic. Unfortunately, garlic for cholesterol lowering hasn’t held up to scrutiny.
Recent evidence suggests that garlic supplementation is unlikely to be an effective natural means of lowering cholesterol levels. A study published in the February 2007 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine showed that neither raw garlic nor two different commonly used garlic supplements lowered cholesterol levels when given in doses of four grams per day for a period of six months. Neither was there any effect on triglyceride levels or HDL levels through supplementation with garlic. It was thought that the original conflicting study results on garlic for cholesterol lowering might have been due to differences in the form of garlic used, but this large study seems to dispute this possibility since both raw garlic and garlic supplements were used. Interestingly, some smaller studies continue to show that garlic has a modest effect on lowering lipid levels. Unfortunately, it appears that the question hasn’t been completely laid to rest.
If you have elevated cholesterol and want to use garlic for cholesterol lowering what should you do? Even if garlic does have some mild cholesterol lowering effect, it’s unlikely to be sufficient to eliminate the need for prescription cholesterol medications if you have a markedly elevated cholesterol level. If your cholesterol levels are in the borderline high range and your doctor agrees that dietary treatment may be adequate, it makes sense to add raw garlic or a garlic supplement to your diet to determine its effects on your cholesterol level. Garlic is a safe supplement and is known to have other positive health benefits including antioxidant properties and, possibly, some ability to protect against bacterial infections. Even if garlic for cholesterol lowering doesn’t improve your cholesterol problem, you may be benefiting from some of garlic’s other healthy properties.
Although garlic may not have potent cholesterol lowering properties, garlic is still a healthy food that should be a part of the average person’s diet. Plus, it will add delicious flavor to all of your healthy meals.