Can garlic with lemon juice lower cholesterol? Can it help in preventing heart disease?

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Garlic, a pungent herb, has been used for centuries for its numerous health benefits. But it is well known for its immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is, therefore, beneficial for heart health.

“The bioactive compound of garlic — allicin — and other components like diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine are responsible for its health benefits. The sulfur compounds are formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed,” says Dr Eileen Canday, HOD, Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai. “Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, and there are several risk factors for this condition, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and inflammation. Garlic helps in regulating blood pressure, preventing plaque build-up and combatting inflammation,” she adds.

Dr Canday also details how the nutrients in garlic help in boosting heart health: “Vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant, can help protect the heart from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin B6 helps in maintaining healthy blood vessels and reduces the risk of heart disease. Selenium helps to protect the heart from damage caused by oxidative stress. Manganese is essential for maintaining healthy bones and supporting the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.”

What does existing research say

Most research corroborates that garlic has a cholesterol-reducing effect, results varying on the extent of efficacy and the type of garlic used. The administration of garlic plus lemon juice resulted in an improvement in lipid levels, fibrinogen and blood pressure of patients with hyperlipidemia, according to an Iranian study. Another study showed how an intake of half to one clove of garlic per day lowers cholesterol levels by approximately 10 per cent. That’s because of a decrease in cholesterol absorption, cholesterol, and fatty acid synthesis.

One garlic clove is approximately 6 g. Half to one clove of garlic per day is equivalent to 3–6 g per day. A 2018 study found that garlic tablets equivalent to 2 g of crushed raw garlic could have benefits. Aged garlic extract, also known as AGE, has been proven to lower overall cholesterol levels when compared to other varieties of garlic. Garlic oil and powder still reduce cholesterol levels. Whatever be the form in which you ingest garlic, it helps in reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Epidemiologic studies suggest a link between higher intakes of vegetables in the garlic family (which include onions, shallots, chives, and leeks as well as garlic) as lowering risks of certain cancers, particularly gastrointestinal cancers.


How to include garlic in your daily diet

Garlic is a flavourful and nutritious addition to any diet. “You can use it in savoury dishes, soups, sauces, dressings and more. Its addition can be a simple and effective way to improve your heart health. However, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider and a qualified dietician before making any significant changes to your diet especially if you are taking any medications or have any medical condition,” advises Dr Canday.

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