By Elliot Fisher MS, ATC, CSCS, PES
There are many health foods and supplements that are purported to have great health benefits. Most have little to no significant change in health. One food that does have great notable changes in health is garlic. Garlic is shown in research to improve blood lipids (decrease LDL, increase HDL, decrease triglycerides, and lower blood pressure). It also is a strong immune system booster.
When looking at cardiovascular health, fitness is likely the number one factor. Other than your cardiovascular fitness, looking at your blood lipids is a good indicator of heart health. There are different standards for cholesterol values depending on where you get blood work done. Typically total cholesterol should be 100-199 mg/dL, LDL should be 0-99 mg/dL, VLDL should be 5-40 mg/dL, HDL should be greater than 39 mg/dL, and triglycerides should be 0-149 mg/dL. When values are not in these ranges it is referred to as dyslipidemia or hyperlipidemia. Garlic consumption shows decreases in LDL cholesterol, increases in HDL cholesterol and some research shows decreases in triglycerides.(1)
It’s fall and winter will be coming soon. It’s common for people to get more colds and the flu during these colder seasons. Garlic supplementation shows increases in immune markers such as natural killer cells and T cells. (2) This has in practice shown to decrease risk of getting sick and reduced the severity and length of sickness.(3) Try consuming more garlic this cold/flu season and see how your immunity compares to previous years!
When taking garlic for its health benefits a dosage of 600-1200 mg/day is recommended, typically taken throughout the day.(4) This can be consumed in supplement (capsule) form, by eating garlic cloves, or by using garlic powder. Garlic supplements should have the dosage on the supplement facts. Garlic powder is about 3 grams of garlic/teaspoon, so a ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon should be enough to get a benefit. One thing to keep in mind is that some people have a mild intolerance to garlic so consuming extra garlic can give you indigestion or other digestion issues. It’s pertinent to make sure not to consume too much garlic so you aren’t having any digestive distress.
Ried, K., Toben, C., & Fakler, P. (2013). Effect of garlic on serum lipids: an updated meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews, 71(5), 282-299.
Nantz, M. P., Rowe, C. A., Muller, C. E., Creasy, R. A., Stanilka, J. M., & Percival, S. S. (2012). Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and γδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. Clinical Nutrition, 31(3), 337-344.
Josling, P. (2001). Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. Advances in therapy, 18(4), 189-193.