How does garlic help in lowering blood cholesterol levels?
First, we have to understand what cholesterol is and its role in the human body. Cholesterol is a white, waxy material that is produced by the liver and is seen in the blood stream, but can also be found in the foods we eat like those from animal sources. It functions to help the body make vitamin D, certain hormones like androgens and estrogens, produce bile salts to aid in digesting fats, form cell walls thus responsible for cell membrane permeability, and acts as an insulator in the nerve fibers. The desired amount of it in the blood is less than 200 mg/dL.
The liver is capable of producing cholesterol about 1,000 milligrams per day, which is just enough so that even if you don’t eat foods that has it, you would still be alright. Since it cannot travel alone along the blood stream, it has to be combined with certain proteins, gaining its name “lipoproteins” because of its combination of lipid or fat and proteins. There are three main types of lipoproteins namely HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-cholesterol lipoprotein), and triglycerides, of which HDL and LDL are considered the most important ones. LDL, also known as bad cholesterol is responsible for its transport from the liver to cells. Too much of it being carried to the cells can cause a build-up which is actually harmful to the body and increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The normal amount of LDL in the blood should only be about 70%, but it varies from person to person. HDL commonly known as good cholesterol, on the other hand does the opposite. It carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, thus preventing build-up and decreasing the risk of developing heart problems. Once it is in the liver, it will be metabolized and expelled out of the body as a waste.
Having mentioned all these information, we might ask, how then does garlic help in lowering blood cholesterol levels? Research studies have been ongoing for years and it has been found out that garlic helps in controlling cholesterol by lowering the amount of LDL in the blood and at the same time increasing the amount of HDL. It also helps in triglyceride reduction. This capability of garlic is said to be because of the phytochemicals it contain. This chemical compound has been found to have the same effects as the “statin” drugs, which are the most commonly prescribed drugs by physicians to lower blood cholesterol levels. That is why garlic is also regarded as a natural statin.
There are commercially prepared garlic preparations available in the market such as Garlicin and Kyolic.
Although studies conducted have a solid proof that garlic can reduce cholesterol levels, it cannot do the work alone. It therefore still should be combined with lifestyle changes such as eating healthy foods, doing exercises, smoking and drinking cessation, managing stress, and having a regular follow-up with a doctor just to check if your heart is still doing well.