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Garlic May Not Lower Cholesterol

Study Shows No Improvement in Cholesterol Levels From Raw Garlic or Garlic Supplements
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 26, 2007 -- Garlic may not improve the cholesterol profiles of people with moderately high levels of "bad" cholesterol, a new study shows.

The researchers tested raw garlic and two different garlic supplements on nearly 200 adults with moderately high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

After six months, the patients showed no improvements in their average cholesterol or other blood fats (lipids), no matter what kind of garlic they had consumed.

"Garlic supplements or dietary garlic in reasonable doses are unlikely to produce lipid benefits" in people with moderately high LDL cholesterol levels, write the researchers.

But "the jury is still out" about whether garlic prevents heart disease, states an editorial published with the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Too Much 'Bad' Cholesterol

Poor cholesterol levels are among the risk factors for heart disease.

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Here are the optimal levels of cholesterol, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:

  • Total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL.
  • LDL ("bad") cholesterol should be below 100
  • HDL ("good") should be 60 or higher

The 192 people who took part in the garlic study had less-than-ideal cholesterol profiles:

  • LDL levels ranged from 130-190. Average total cholesterol: about 227.
  • Average LDL cholesterol: about 150.
  • Average HDL cholesterol: about 55.

None had heart disease or diabetes. They didn't smoke and weren't taking any drugs to treat cholesterol or blood pressure.

Don't know your cholesterol level? A simple blood test can show you where you rank. Diet, exercise, and medications can help control cholesterol.

Garlic Study

The researchers included Stanford University's Christopher Gardner, PhD.

They gave participants sandwiches to eat and pills to take six days per week for six months.

Participants were split into four groups. One group got sandwiches that included four to six cloves of crushed raw garlic. They took sham supplements containing no garlic or other active ingredients (placebo pills).

Another group got garlic-free sandwiches and took Garlicin, a powdered garlic supplement.

The third group got garlic-free sandwiches and took Kyolic, an aged garlic supplement. The fourth group got garlic-free sandwiches and placebo pills.

Extensive tests show that all three forms of garlic contained comparable amounts of allicin, a compound studied for possible anticholesterol effects.

Participants had their cholesterol checked monthly throughout the six-month study.

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Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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