Expert Q&A

Garlic Pills: Effective for Lowering Cholesterol?

Should I take garlic pills for cholesterol?

Garlic is a member of the allium family, which also includes onions. This family contains a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds. The best known of these compounds, and possibly the most beneficial, is allicin. Allicin is formed when a clove of garlic is crushed or a garlic pill breaks up into pieces in the gastrointestinal tract. Sulfur compounds are responsible for garlic's pungent odor and are the source of many of its health-promoting effects, such as:

  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Cancer fighting properties
  • Anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition, garlic is an excellent source of manganese, as well as a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium.

Scientific analysis has shown that among the leading brands of garlic supplements, there are huge differences in the amount of allicin they release. Many supplement brands are marketed based upon how much allicin the supposedly release, yet some yield so little allicin that a person would have to take dozens of tablets just to get the amount produced by 1 clove of crushed fresh garlic.

As many garlic pills release only small amounts of their active ingredients, fresh garlic is clearly your best bet. In addition, credible studies have not consistently shown that garlic pills lower cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar; or that they prevent heart attacks, cancer, or blood clots. While garlic supplements appear to be safe, regular users, especially those who take prescription blood-thinning medications, should inform their physicians of usage.

Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

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