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Deodorized garlic capsules slightly lower high levels of cholesterol in men, according to a study in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development.

The study shows that blood cholesterol levels of men taking garlic capsules dropped 7 percent over 5 months, but remained unchanged in men downing placebos. Further, the level of "bad" cholesterol in the blood of the garlic group was about 12 percent lower than that of the placebo group after 5 months. Both sets of men had the same levels of "bad" cholesterol when the study began.

"Despite the mild effect of the garlic capsules, I think the supplements have some usefulness, at least in men," said Yu-Yan Yeh, professor of nutrition at Penn State and study leader.

"I don't want people to think they can enjoy fatty foods and then use garlic capsules to lower their cholesterol levels," Yeh said. "It's clear that garlic supplements alone would not be sufficient to reduce cholesterol in the blood to a desirable level. Combining a modified diet, stress reduction and greater physical activity with garlic supplements would be more effective in reducing cholesterol levels to a desired value, rather than depending on garlic treatments alone."

Every day for five months, the 34 men in the study, ages 35 to 55, ingested either 9 placebos or 9 capsules of deodorized, aged garlic extract.

Although the men had fairly healthy diets, were generally fit, and not obese, they had cholesterol levels that averaged above 240 at the beginning of the study.

"It took 4 months to see an effect from the treatments," Yeh said. This suggests that daily garlic supplements work over time to affect levels of blood cholesterol in men.

Yeh thinks that fresh garlic or garlic used as a condiment has a similar cholesterol-lowering effect in men. "Men don't need to rely on garlic capsules," he said. "But for those who don't like garlic's odor, the study shows that deodorized capsules would be an acceptable option."

During the study, there were no changes in blood levels of either "good" cholesterol or triglycerides in the men. A triglyceride is a fatty substance that plays a major role in artery and heart disease.

Yeh's collaborators in the study were research assistants Shelley Evans and Shaw-Mei Yeh, and Robert I.S. Lin, of the Nutrition International Company, which provided the garlic capsules and helped fund the work.

(Author: Scott Turner, Penn State Department of Public Information)


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