Promoters of garlic and garlic supplements as health aids often overemphasize the possible benefits of a diet rich in garlic. However, there is evidence to support certain health benefits of garlic, such as a short-term reduction in cholesterol and a lowering of unhealthy fats in the blood. As with any "superfood," moderation is key, and if you add garlic to your diet, you should incorporate it as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.
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Garlic, Fat and Cholesterol
The National Institutes of Health reports that some studies show a short-term benefit to eating garlic, in the form of a one-to-three month positive effect on blood cholesterol levels. However, other studies have shown no effect on blood cholesterol levels, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Fox News reports that garlic seems to have the effect of lowering unhealthy fats in the blood, which could contribute to a reduction in overall cholesterol and better heart health.
Other Healthy Effects of Garlic
Garlic is a diuretic, which increases the production and release of urine from the body. Garlic seems to increase metabolism as a result, which can contribute to a reduction in body fat as the body processes energy more rapidly. The National Institutes of Health also reports a slight reduction in blood pressure after eating garlic and the possible slowing of hardening of the arteries, which is another contributor to heart disease.
Garlic Side Effects
The side effects of eating garlic are typically minor, particularly in comparison to the possible health benefits. Some garlic eaters report body odor, bad breath, heartburn and nausea. However, side effects could rise to dangerous levels if you are taking any blood-thinning medication, such as Coumadin. Garlic is a natural blood thinner, so garlic may interact with and naturally increase the thinning of blood caused by medication.
Garlic in and of itself does not burn fat in the same way as an increased metabolism, although it may help reduce fat levels in the blood. However, it may contribute to other heart-healthy effects that can mimic or enhance fat-burning and raise the body's metabolism. By possibly lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and the initial effects of atherosclerosis, garlic can contribute to a heart-healthy diet much as the lowering or burning of fat may.