Thursday, March 01, 2007
Stinky vegetable stinks at lowering cholesterol
One of my favorite studies this week found that "garlic stinks" at lowering cholesterol levels. At least that's how the Stanford press release put it. Having grown up near Gilroy, California, the self-proclaimed "Garlic Capital of the World," I have fond memories of the early morning fragrance at harvest time, and I know that garlic is big business. A U.C. Davis publication says that each person in the United States ate an average 2.6 pounds of garlic in 2004, and that U.S. garlic exports exceeded $21 million in the same year.

Garlic's supposed health benefits have been widely touted, including claims that it lowers blood pressure, fights cancer, prevents heart disease and has antifungal properties. Unfortunately, many of the results have been produced only in animals and in Petri dishes.

The Stanford study sought to test in humans whether any of three different forms of garlic would lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels at least 10 points in people with moderately high LDL levels. Participants were fed sandwiches and tablets for six months, and they were required to maintain their weight and keep food logs, so that lower cholesterol couldn't be attributed to weight loss. They got the equivalent of one clove of garlic six times per week for six months. Some received placebos. After six months on the regimen, none of the garlic produced significant effects on LDL levels.

Senior study author Christopher Gardner said he was both surprised and disappointed. Had he proved that garlic lowered LDL, he imagined, he'd have been given the key to the city of Gilroy and proclaimed "garlic king" with a vanity license plate. He hasn't ruled out conducting clinical trials to study other medical uses for garlic - perhaps its power on blood pressure, cancer, or heart disease.

For now, Gardner says we shouldn't give up garlic-laced hummus, pesto or Asian stir fry. He notes that garlic can be part of basic healthy eating. It simply doesn't seem to lower your cholesterol.

I'm not giving up garlic, and I am not giving up on Gardner's dream of getting the key to Gilroy.
Have you tried garlic as a health supplement? Did you feel any benefits?
I hadn't heard of anti-cholesterol porperties of garlic, but I have heard that it has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that have been proven in several studies. It is hypothesized that humans developed a taste for the "spice" unconsciously because it was able to counteract any spoilage. Food for thought...
I'm not buying it! Everything is better with garlic. Perhaps in concert with other foods their combination has a different effect? I'd be interested to know if the study looked at garlic with other foods, like wine, meat, fish and vegetables. Having done a fair bit of traveling, I can tell you that garlic is very important to making some of the more "exotic" dishes palatable. Vampires don't want cholesterol laden blood, so it's got that going for it.
I personally don't like garlic enough to overdose on it. However, anytime I drive through Gilroy, "Garlic capital" of the world, the aroma of garlic is, shall I say, alive and well. Perhaps, for people who like garlic they should just eat it and forget the debate on health. In moderation, garlic can enhance the taste of food and Gilroy can remain a great place for producing such a crop. Win, Win situation.
Everyone has an opinion about garlic. The challenge is to separate fact from opinion. The University of Iowa has a posting on garlic that notes, among other things, that garlic is a blood thinner and should not be taken before or after surgery. It should probably not be taken by persons with bleeding ulcers, either.[]
Personally, I limit garlic intake because of disastrous effects it has on my digestion and breath. On the plus side, the resulting bad breath appears to keep vampires at bay.
A Japanese market lady introduced me to pickled garlic as a good booster for the immune system. I have followed a one clove daily regimen for more than 5 years. My lack of illness (sick days) has been noted by my employer over a number of years now.
An interesting article. If garlic has all these good benefits and no adverse ones, who worry about. Eat it and enjoy it. What would Italian food be without garlic??
One of the main benefits I've noticed by eating garlic is that I haven't been bitten by spiders or mosquitos in years. It's been wonderful, since I have many scars to show for all the bites I've received in the past. And I love the taste of garlic, so I win anyway!
This is sooo interesting and I particularly being saved from the sales pitches of buying more supplements. I remain a garlic fan, but will stick with my favorite cloves from the Farmer's Market for pasta and avoid buying the overpriced kind in a bottle. Nice work.
Garlic is stinky for the same reason tobacco stinks, because it is toxic. Toxins do not prevent disease, they actually contribute to it. Once upon a time people believed tobacco was also a health product. Apparently we have not learned from that mistake.
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