9 Proven Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic compounds have medicinal properties. It is highly nutritious, can compact the common cold, reduce high blood pressure, and lower bad cholesterol levels. It can also enhance brain function, longevity, bone health, and performance.

A common adage food is a medicine, which is true because many diseases are preventable. Garlic has been utilized as food and medicine for centuries, with some drinking garlic water combined with honey and others resorting to garlic pills supplements to get its full benefits. It is scientifically called Allium Sativum and is often used as a flavor in cooking and medicine throughout generations to treat various ailments. Modern science has explored the possible health benefits of garlic and its nutritional value, as discussed below.

Its compounds have potent medicinal properties

It gives food a strong, delicious taste when used for flavoring purposes. However, over the years, it has predominantly been used due to its health and medicinal properties. In the past, major civilizations such as Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, Romans, and Greeks used garlic for various purposes. Several studies attribute its health benefits to a sulfur compound it forms when chopped, chewed, or crushed. It also has another compound called allicin that temporarily appears on freshly cut or chopped garlic. Additionally, garlic has other compounds such as s-allyl cysteine and diallyl disulfide, contributing to its medicinal value. The sulfur compound formed from chewed or crushed garlic exerts potent biological effects on an individual when eaten and enters the digestive tract and into the bloodstream.

It has few calories and highly nutritious

Garlic’s nutritional value is seen in the scientific research that has unearthed its content. One clove of raw garlic provides 2% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin B6 and manganese, 1% of vitamin C and Selenium DV. It also provides 0.06 grams of fiber and considerable copper, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, and vitamin B1. The same amounts of garlic contain 4.5 calories, 1 gram of carbs, and 0.2 grams of protein. It is estimated that garlic is a superfood with many nutrients that the body needs.

Garlic pills help alleviate some sicknesses such as the Common cold

Garlic pills are often used to improve immune system functionality and fight against diseases. A study conducted for 12 weeks demonstrated that a daily intake of garlic supplements could minimize the frequency of colds by 63% than a placebo. The study also indicated that garlic reduced the average duration of cold symptoms by 70%. The garlic group took only 1.5 days, while the placebo group took five days with symptoms. Another study also showed that taking a high dosage of mature garlic extract shortened the number of days individuals were sick with flu or col by 61%.

Garlic’s active compounds may reduce high blood pressure

Heart attack and stroke are ranked high among cardiovascular diseases as the world’s top killers in both young and older people. These diseases are driven by hypertension and high blood pressure within the body. Several human studies agree that garlic pills can greatly reduce blood pressure in people who are prone to high blood pressure. One study discovered that a dosage of 600-1,500 mg of garlic extract had the same effect as high blood pressure drugs called Atenolol throughout 24-weeks. The result shows that garlic dosage should be considerably high to achieve the desired medical effect.

Garlic can help improve cholesterol levels

Some studies suggest that garlic could reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. Research shows that individuals with high cholesterol levels can benefit from garlic supplements as it reduces LDL cholesterol by approximately 15%. Interestingly, as garlic lowers LDL levels, it does not affect the “good” HDL cholesterol levels. However, studies indicate that garlic seems not to affect triglyceride levels which are also known to contribute to heart disease.

A four-month study was conducted using garlic extract and a regular check on blood lipid parameters to determine liver and kidney functions. After four months, researchers concluded that garlic extract enhanced blood antioxidants, improved the lipid profile, and reduced blood pressure. The level of oxidation product also reduced, indicating a reduced oxidation process in the body.

The antioxidant components in garlic could prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

The aging process is facilitated when the body is subject to oxidative damage and free radicals due to poor diet and meaningful nutrients. Garlic is rich in antioxidants that cushion the body cells from the harmful effects of oxidative damage. Some studies using a high dosage of garlic supplements have indicated that it results in enhanced antioxidant enzymes. The increased antioxidant enzymes contribute to reduced oxidative stress in individuals with high blood pressure. Since garlic can reduce blood pressure, bad cholesterol and minimize oxidative damage through its antioxidant, it could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

It may enhance longevity

It may be challenging to conduct human research that proves the effect of garlic on longevity. However, considering its beneficial impact on health risk factors such as high blood pressure, it could make sense to believe that garlic can help lengthen life. Another factor that fuels this theory is that garlic helps infighting common infections that often lead to premature death. Garlic can also correct or prevent dysfunctional immune systems in older adults.

Garlic pills are used to enhance athletic performance

In the early days, various civilizations used garlic to enhance performance among athletes. The Greeks are known to have used garlic to boost the performance of their athletes at the Olympics. Ancient cultures traditionally used garlic to reduce fatigue and enhance endurance among laborers, thus improving their work capacity. Some rodent studies suggest that garlic improves exercise performance, though few human studies confirm this assertion. Some of these studies include one done on people with heart disease, subjected to taking garlic oil for six weeks. The result indicated a 12% reduction in their heart rate and improved exercise capacity. Some studies also claimed that garlic could reduce exercise-induced fatigue.

It may improve bone health

In this too, no human research has been conducted to substantiate the claim. Nevertheless, rodent studies suggest that garlic could minimize bone loss since it increases estrogen hormone in females. Garlic’s effect on estrogen is demonstrated in research done on menopausal women given daily intake of dry garlic extract. The result indicated increased estrogen levels in this group of women. This study concluded that supplementing with garlic has beneficial effects on women’s bones and could reduce osteoarthritis.

The Bottom Line

Garlic is not only used for food seasoning but also as medicine. It has been used for many centuries to boost performance and endurance or for laborers and athletics. Its nutritional value is seen in the scientific research on its components. The compounds found in garlic provide medicinal properties that help in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels and slows down the aging process due to its antioxidants.

Elena Ognivtseva

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.

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