Expert Advice

Are garlic extracts as healthy as the real thing?

Are garlic extracts as healthy as the real thing?
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Yes, extracts can be even better—but they are effective only for certain people.

Fresh garlic has many established benefits: In clinical trials, it has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, prevent plaque build up, and lower cholesterol levels. Garlic's effects are mostly attributed to its high levels of sulfur compounds and antioxidants. To achieve these benefits, you should eat at least one to two cloves of garlic a day. That's a lot of garlic, and raw garlic, of course, has a distinct, strong odor and can cause indigestion.

Try a garlic supplement. You may have better success with aged garlic extract (AGE) supplements, which are odorless and easy on the stomach. AGE supplements go through an extraction process that involves oxidizing the garlic to make it an active antioxidant. Research has shown that AGE may not only reduce or inhibit plaque formation in the arteries but may also be better than garlic alone at lowering elevated homocysteine levels (an amino acid related to high risk of heart disease) and improving cholesterol levels in the blood.

Reduce high cholesterol. In a 2006 study at our lab, involving 29 high–risk people over a one–year period, patients lowered their cholesterol levels by 12 percent with Kyolic aged garlic extracts. (The study was funded by Wakunaga, the Japanese company that makes Kyolic.) Plaque buildup was reduced by 60 percent, and blood pressure, homocysteine, and LDL cholesterol oxidation levels all dropped.

Watch your diet. Ag should be taken as part of a health regimen aimed at reducing or inhibiting plaque formation in the arteries. Cutting back on fat and getting plenty of exercise is just as important.