Aphrodisiac, money, food, medicine, vampire repellent – garlic has had many uses throughout the ages. Garlic health benefits are one of the reasons it is so popular.
More recent evidence-based research suggests garlic may be effective against high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cholesterol, colds and some cancers.
Garlic contains vitamins C, B6, manganese, selenium and other antioxidants (notably allicin)
The Evidence Of Garlic Health Benefits Is Overwhelming
High blood pressure
An authoritative review from 2012 of the best available evidence on the use of garlic to treat high blood pressure identified one good quality study that suggested that 200mg of garlic powder three times daily reduced blood pressure. However, the review concluded that there was insufficient evidence to say if garlic was an effective means for treating high blood pressure and reducing death rates.
A well-conducted review from 2009 of 29 good quality studies (involving a combined total of 1,794 participants) concluded that garlic (mainly garlic powder) produced “modest reductions” in total cholesterol levels.
A good quality review from 2012 of the best available evidence concluded there was insufficient evidence regarding the effects of garlic supplements in treating or preventing colds. Most studies that claimed this were of poor quality. The review said one reasonably good study suggested that garlic may prevent colds, but that more research was needed to back up the finding.
The evidence is mixed. A 2007 World Cancer Research Fund review concluded that garlic “probably protects against” bowel and stomach cancers. A more recent review from 2009 of the best available research on humans concluded that there was “no credible evidence” with stomach, breast, lung and womb cancers, but that there was “very limited evidence” that eating garlic may lower the risk of colon, prostate, oral, ovary or renal cell cancers.
The dietitian’s verdict
Alison Hornby, a dietitian and BDA spokesperson, says: “Garlic is a delicious flavour used widely in Mediterranean and Asian cooking.
“Studies using high concentrations of garlic extracts have been associated with improved blood circulation, healthier cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure, all of which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, current evidence does not support the use of garlic supplements to improve health.
“Garlic is particularly useful in cooking as it provides an alternative to salt in adding flavour to meals, along with lemon juice, chilli, herbs and spices. Eating less salt is important for avoiding high blood pressure.”