Consuming garlic may help you control your weight, but the pounds won’t magically melt away. Yes, it’s true that garlic is gaining more respect for its medicinal qualities, but the body of research supporting garlic weight loss is still rather slim. Some of the garlic weight loss research that currently exists was conducted on mice or a small number of humans. That’s not a poor start.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.9 percent of adult Americans are obese. That translates into 78.6 million obese American adults. If the fragrant cloves that make food taste so great turn out to be a major force for weight control, we can certainly benefit.
Garlic owns long history as medicinal plant
Lovely, aromatic garlic is poorly understood. If you’ve been following garlic health news, you may think that the world is just waking up to the benefits of garlic, but that can’t be further from the truth. Garlic has a long history as a medicinal plant. Some of its nicknames include Russian penicillin, vegetable Viagra, snake grass, natural antibiotic and plant talisman. And there’s more beneath the skin of garlic than you think. Garlic, Allium sativum, is composed of water, carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber and fat. It also contains vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids.
Egyptians fed garlic to their slaves to help make them strong enough to build the pyramids. According to “Extracts from the History and Medical Properties of Garlic” from Biljana Bauer Petrovska and Svetlana Cekovska, Egyptian slaves were poorly fed, but the inclusion of garlic in their food provided vitamins, promoted the balance necessary to move huge plates and decreased the need for food. Garlic was also given to the original Greek Olympic athletes. And, yes, archaeologists discovered garlic bulbs in the Egyptian pyramids, as well as inside the Greek temples!
Mentions of garlic are found in the earliest recorded history. According to“Historical Perspective on the Use of Garlic” by Richard S. Rivlin, ancient medical texts from China, India, Rome, Greece and Egypt detail ways that garlic was used in medical applications. Rivlin also mentions that today’s science is “tending to confirm” what the ancient cultures thought about garlic all along. Modern science is looking at the mechanisms of action of garlic, as well as exploring garlic’s ability to prevent and treat disease.
In 2011, researchers from Korea published their garlic weight loss findings in theJournal of Nutrition. For the research, scientists used male mice that were fed a high fat diet for eight weeks before the study began. That diet induced obesity, and the mice were then fed a high-fat control diet supplemented with either 2 percent or 5 percent garlic for another seven weeks.
The researchers found that the dietary garlic did actually reduce body weight. Study authors wrote that the reduced body weight “reflected a marked antiobesity effect of garlic.” Other benefits included the improvement of abnormal plasma and liver lipid profiles, including reduction in total cholesterol. However, the researchers also noted “enhanced fecal mass and frequency” possibly associated with the antiobesity action of garlic. That’s the fiber content of garlic in action!
If you feel like delving into the science behind these findings (proteins and tissues and thermogenesis), read the full garlic weight loss study, “Reduction of Body Weight by Dietary Garlic Is Associated with an Increase in Uncoupling Protein mRNA Expression and Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase in Diet-Induced Obese Mice” by Mak-Soon Lee, In-Hwan Kim, Chong-Tai Kim and Yangka Kim.
Garlic helped a few people slim down too
A 2012 study examined the effects of aged garlic extract and exercise on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk for 30 Korean women. It’s a small study, but it’s a human study! Why aged garlic extract? Study authors noted that previous research indicates that aged garlic extract is more beneficial for reducing CVD risk than raw garlic, garlic oil and garlic powder.
Obesity is a risk factor for CVD, so researchers were particularly interested in how aged garlic extract may affect weight. Their findings showed that the group of women who received 12 weeks of treatment with aged garlic extract (along with a regimen of regular exercise) experienced significant reductions in both body weight and body fat.
The study, “Independent Beneficial Effects of Aged Garlic Extract Intake with Regular Exercise on Cardiovascular Risk in Postmenopausal Women,” is available in Nutrition Research and Practice.
And there’s always the rats
In 2003, researchers publishing in American Journal of Hypertension found that feeding rats allicin produced some impressive results. The researchers wanted more precise control of the active ingredient, so they used a synthetic preparation of allicin, an active ingredient in garlic. Before giving the allicin, researchers also fed fructose to the rats, making them rather ill with hyperinsulinemia, hypertension and hypertriglyceridemia.
The study found that the fructose-fed rats that received allicin experienced lowered blood pressure, insulin and triglyceride levels. Allicin also proved practical for preventing further weight gain on the fructose diet. The rats that didn’t receive allicin continued to gain weight, but the lucky rats given allicin maintained a steady weight. Read more about the garlic study, “The Effects of Allicin on Weight in Fructose-induced Hyperinsulinemic, Hyperlipidemic, Hypertensive Rats.”
This story certainly falls under anecdotal evidence, but is nevertheless worth mentioning. In 2009, a Croatian man lost 73 kilograms, or 160 pounds, in six months on his onions and garlic diet, as reported by the Croatian Times.
The 42-year-old commercial painter, Momir Zmiric, noted that his onions and garlic diet invention was based on his favorite meal: garlic and onions on a plain biscuit with carrot juice to drink. Zmiric lost almost half of his body weight on the diet, which he went on without consulting his doctors.
Chances are your favorite meal is nowhere near so strange, but even if frequent meals of onions and garlic sounds appetizing, your doctor will probably (should indeed) encourage you to choose a less drastic diet.
Garlic side effects do exist
Garlic may be revered, but it isn’t entirely innocent. That means you should talk with your doctor before beginning a new garlic regimen designed for weight loss or other health benefits. Doctors are still smarter than the Internet, and they can tell you whether garlic is compatible with your current medications. Even though garlic is a natural substance, it can still change how your body responds to medications or surgery. Garlic can increase or prolong bleeding and lower blood pressure.
Some possible side effects of garlic are more commonly experienced when consuming raw garlic. They include heartburn, flatulence and upset stomach. Garlic consumption also produces allyl methyl sulfide, which is responsible for garlic breath! Allergic reactions are possible too. And watch out if you’re planning on applying garlic to your skin. It may burn you.
Unpeel the mysteries behind buying, storing and cooking with garlic
Avoid the lazy temptation of buying diced garlic in a jar. Instead, dig your hands into the display of fresh garlic bulbs at the supermarket. Select garlic bulbs that are dry and firm. Avoid bulbs with soft spots or sprouts, but you probably already guessed at that. Garlic keeps for several weeks in a cool and dark location like your pantry. Keep it out of the refrigerator.
Garlic is easy to prepare, and no, you don’t have to consume raw garlic to reap possible garlic weight loss benefits. However, garlic retains more of its beneficial compounds when it’s crushed and then allowed to sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking. The crushing is necessary to help free the enzymes in garlic that are contained inside the plant cells. If you cook whole garlic or crushed garlic that hasn’t been allowed to rest, you’re still eating a healthy food, but you’re losing out on some natural health benefits.
Before you can crush your garlic, you must separate the individual cloves. A good smack with your hand should do the job! Place the bulb on a hard surface and apply pressure with the palm of your hand. To crush garlic, use a garlic press. If you don’t have one, a knife will do. Check out this guide on how to crush garlic with a knife.
What to do with all that crushed garlic? There are lots of delicious options. You can even find scores of entire cookbooks dedicated to creating meals with garlic.