Used as an herb to flavor food, the fresh cloves of garlic are also used medically for conditions that relate to the heart and blood system. It’s no wonder garlic is the second most utilized supplement in the United States (fish oil takes first place).
Health supplement makers claim the active health benefit ingredient in garlic is allicin, which is the same chemical that gives garlic is distinctive odor. However, due to its instability, the chemical allicin tends to change rather quickly when processed or even cooked. It’s the added process of heat that creates these changes.
Manufacturers who produce garlic supplements, especially odorless supplements, reduce the amount of allicin in the finished product. This of course compromises the effectiveness of the garlic supplement. If processed heavily, some odorless garlic supplements may simply be void of allicin and therefore, void of any health benefits.
When consumed raw, studies show that human stomach acid destroys allicin, the health related benefit of garlic. The most effective way to consume garlic is actually by enteric-coated garlic supplements, prevent disintegration in the stomach.
There are studies that show garlic supplements do not support the prevention of gastric or colorectal cancer. However, it remains unknown “whether garlic-derived organosulfur compounds may be effective in preventing or treating human cancers.”
However, different studies that show compounds from garlic could provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer and cardioprotective benefits. There are also suggestions that on a short term basis, “garlic supplementation modestly improves serum lipid profiles in individuals with elevated serum cholesterol and reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects,” but studies remain inconclusive as to whether or not garlic supplementation can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
How to make garlic work for you
When taking garlic supplements look for supplements that are not odorless (less processing and more allicin) and offer an enteric coating to ensure the supplement dissolves in the intestine and not the stomach.