Garlic isn't just for bad breath. As a supplement, the stinky herb has been studied as a treatment for conditions related to heart disease, including high triglyceride levels in the blood. Evidence to support garlic's effectiveness for this use is lacking, however. Consult your doctor before using garlic to treat a medical condition.
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Triglycerides and Garlic
Triglycerides are the chemical form of fat found in food and in your body. High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Studies examining the effect of garlic and garlic supplements on lowering triglyceride levels have had conflicting results. Treatment with garlic does not appear to significantly reduce levels of triglycerides in the blood, according to an analysis of the literature published in a 2009 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics."
Other Markers for Heart Disease
Garlic is also purported to reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood, including total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as LDL or "bad" cholesterol. Conversely, levels of high-density lipoprotein, also called HDL or "good" cholesterol, are supposedly increased by garlic therapy. However, examining the available research suggests that garlic does not have any significant effect on total, LDL or HDL cholesterol, reports the study published in the "Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics."
Benefits of Garlic
Garlic may provide benefits for other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, is a major risk factor for heart disease, and garlic appears to be effective in slowing the progression of atherosclerosis, reports MedlinePlus. Garlic may also be beneficial in reducing blood pressure, although the effect appears to be rather small -- in the range of 5 to 10 percent -- according to New York University Langone Medical Center.
Garlic Side Effects
If you are deciding whether or not to take garlic to lower your triglyceride levels, you may want to take into consideration the possible side effects of consuming large amounts of garlic. The most frequent side effects are strong body and breath odor. In certain cases, high doses of garlic can cause heartburn, flatulence, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, warns Medline Plus. Garlic may also have blood-thinning effects, and may increase the risk of excess bleeding.