Advantages and Disadvantages of Eating Garlic

Thinking of adding more herbs into your everyday recipes? If so, it's time to weigh the pros and cons of eating garlic. Believe it or not, the popular herb can play a pretty big role in your overall health.

Garlic can play a pretty big role in your overall health. (Image: denphumi/iStock/Getty Images)

Read more: Garlic & Headaches

Benefits of Eating Raw Garlic

According to a chapter in the book Antioxidant-Antidiabetic Agents and Human Health, published in February 2014 by InTechOpen, the way you prepare garlic plays a big role in how effective it is for health and wellness benefits. Where fresh, raw garlic is said to be the most potent, medicinally beneficial form of the herb, dried or cooked garlic often loses its nutritional value in processing.

This is largely because allicin, the multi-use organosulfur compound obtained from garlic, breaks down when cooked. As such, if you're hoping to reap all the benefits of eating garlic, you might want to skip the cooked cloves, in favor of raw goodness.

While many researchers tout garlic as a health hero, some warn consumers to be wary of garlic benefits and disadvantages. According to a January 2014 article published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, long-term trials of garlic consumption proved to be potentially harmful for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as young children. So, if you or your kids fit this description, consult your doctor to see if you're at risk for any garlic side effects.

Garlic for Weight Loss?

Among the myriad benefits of eating garlic, some researchers found that it can help prevent obesity. In a July 2014 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, researchers tested the effects of methanolic extract of black garlic (MEBG) on obese rats. While this exact design hasn't been tested on humans, the results in this study suggested that garlic has anti-obesity effects.

This comes from its role in regulating lipid metabolism, decreasing fat tissues and reducing high cholesterol and triglycerides. Only time will tell if the same potential possible in humans, but it doesn't hurt to test the waters.

According to a February 2016 article published in the Journal of Nutrition, adding aged garlic extract to your diet can considerably enhance immune cell function. While inflammation is traditionally associated with colds, aches and pains, it's also true that inflammation plays a known role in obesity. These findings further support the idea that garlic consumption can, in fact, help regulate and maintain a healthy body weight.

Garlic and Bodily Outputs

Based on findings from an October 2016 study published in Appetite: Multidisciplinary Research on Eating and Drinking, the consumption of garlic may improve more than just internal wellbeing; it may also have a beneficial effect on your body's external odor as well. When researchers tested the effect of garlic consumption on odor output from 42 males, they found that those who consumed more garlic were considered to have a more pleasant underarm scent.

In addition to garlic's effect on body odor, there's a myth that eating garlic can lower sperm count. While many people chuckle at the notion, studies have supported the notion. In the February 2014 chapter on garlic's role in human health in Antioxidant-Antidiabetic Agents and Human Health, the authors note that administering garlic to rats reduced sperm quality and functionality.

While animal research is never directly applicable to humans, this research is notable, as it indicates why many researchers have deemed garlic to be something of a natural contraceptive for males.

Health Effects of Garlic Supplements

Since allicin (the compound that's more plentiful in raw garlic) is incredibly unstable, it can be difficult to maintain the nutritional value of garlic cloves. As a result, health companies have begun to develop garlic supplements that maintain the health benefits of Allium sativum (also known as garlic).

The research discussed in the February 2014 chapter in Antioxidant-Antidiabetic Agents and Human Health has shown that these supplements may be particularly beneficial for cancer prevention. In fact, according to the 2014 article in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine that reviewed the potential therapeutic effects of garlic, garlic was found to have an abundance of anti-cancer properties that reduce the growth rate of cancer cells.

What's more, according to a December 2014 study published in the Journal of Integrated Blood Pressure Control, garlic supplements have shown to be promising for the treatment of high blood pressure. Researchers found this to be especially true when the supplements were made with aged garlic extract, which contains S-allylcysteine as the bioactive sulfur compound, as opposed to traditional allicin.

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