Is garlic really good for your heart?

September 01, 2009
Volume 06    |   Issue 37

It’s well-accepted and well-documented that garlic is good for your health. It thins your blood, lowers blood pressure, and protects against heart disease. But not all garlic and garlic supplements are alike. Some forms are better than others. In fact, you may be depending on a form of garlic that has very little ability to maintain or protect your health.

The chemical in garlic that has these protective capabilities is allicin. Allicin is a power-packed chemical. It’s antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and is a potent antioxidant. The problem is ... allicin isn’t very stable.

A group of Japanese researchers recently found that cooking destroys allicin quickly. They also noticed that it broke down — slowly but surely — when it’s just standing around, like it does in the jars of peeled garlic cloves you can find in grocery stores. The researchers did find that allicin is more stable in 20% alcohol than in water or vegetable oil. But it’s unlikely you’ll find a garlic product preserved in alcohol.

And allicin isn’t present in garlic until you chop the cloves. Then, the enzyme alliinase acts on alliin  (a chemical that is in garlic) and turns it into allicin. So if you chop some cloves of raw garlic and add them to your salad, it could contribute to your health. But even then, it’s just not enough.

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If you want the protective effects of garlic, your best bet is to buy a garlic supplement and take it daily. Buy a brand with guaranteed high amounts of allicin, such as Kyolic. If the allicin content isn’t listed on the label, find one that is. Garlic lends a wonderful flavor to many foods, but it’s beneficial to your health only when it’s high in allicin.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allicin.

Fujisawa, H, et al, “Biological and chemical stability of garlic-derived allicin,” J Agric Food Chem, 56(11), 2008.

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