Many have stuffed the pungent bulbs down their throats in hope of preventing or reducing the risks of heart diseases-don't do so anymore, say researchers.
Researchers from Stanford University's School of Medicine have come out with a myth basher-garlic has no effect whatsoever, on reducing cholesterol levels.
Expressing surprise himself at the results of his study, which were published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, lead author Dr.Christopher Gardner says he came about the findings by conducting a six-month long experiment in 192 volunteers. They were aged between 30 and 65 and had moderately high levels of cholesterol.
The group was divided into four. Keeping one as placebo, the other three were given raw garlic, powdered garlic and aged garlic supplements. The dose was equivalent to a medium sized clove of garlic, consumed daily. Blood samples were drawn at regular levels to test for cholesterol levels.
At the end of the test period, there were no significant changes seen in levels of LDL or 'bad' cholesterol, or in triglyceride levels. The only change monitored was the inevitable bad breath and body odor.
Yet Bob Borris of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a dietary supplement industry group, counters that garlic is meant as an aid in maintaining good cholesterol levels in an already healthy population. According to him, garlic can keep people from developing high cholesterol.
Mary Charlson and Marcus McFerren, of Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, in an editorial, urge people not to assume that garlic has no health benefits at all. They argue ' The results do not demonstrate that garlic has no usefulness in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.'
When garlic is crushed, it is said to form allicin, a compound shown in the laboratory to prevent cholesterol. Yet clinical trials in humans have been inconsistent.
Some previous studies had suggested that garlic could reduce cholesterol by about 12 per cent.
The research team seems to concede as they opine, 'Garlic might lower LDL in specific subpopulations, such as those with higher LDL concentrations, or may have other beneficial effects.'