Men with moderately elevated blood cholesterol and blood pressure may want to reach for the garlic at the dinner table.
Garlic extracts can lower both blood cholesterol and blood pressure in males, according to a study by a team of researchers from Brown University and East Carolina University.
Several recent studies have suggested that garlic may be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels. (High levels are linked with an increased risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular ailments.) But this is the first prospective human study, the sort scientists consider the most rigorous, to investigate the effects of garlic.
The study involved 75 men, 32 to 68 years old. Blood cholesterol levels were measured in all participants, who were encouraged to follow a standardized diet.
Researchers randomly assigned half the group to receive capsules containing about 7 grams a day of aged garlic extract, or roughly the equivalent of 10 to 15 grams of cooked garlic or about two cloves of fresh garlic. They took the capsules daily for six months. The other participants took identical-looking placebo capsules. After six months, the researchers switched the groups.
Some side effects were reported, including stomach problems and an unusual garlicky body odor.
The study found that garlic extract consistently lowered total blood cholesterol by 5 percent to 8 percent. Garlic appeared to exert its beneficial effects by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the most detrimental variety of cholesterol.
The study also found that garlic extracts had no effect on high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the type of cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease.
The study also found that garlic supplements reduced blood pressure modestly, confirming results from previous studies.
The findings suggest that garlic supplements are safe “over extended periods of time,” wrote Manfred Steiner and his colleagues in last month’s issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study suggests, said Steiner, that garlic offers one more way to help reduce moderately elevated blood cholesterol levels in addition to the standard practices of reducing dietary fat and cholesterol and exercising more.