Garlic might be able to drive away vampires, but it won't drive down your cholesterol levels, according to the most rigorous study ever done on the pungent bulb.
Previous studies conducted in test tubes and on animals indicated that garlic might be useful in controlling low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called "bad" cholesterol. But human trials seemed to produce inconsistent results.
So researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, with $1.5-million from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, set out to do a definitive study.
They recruited 192 patients with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. The volunteers were randomly slotted into one of four groups. Some ate a clove of raw garlic a day in a specially prepared sandwich; another group got a powdered garlic supplement sold under the brand name Garlicin; others took a commercial garlic extract, Kyolic; and the fourth group received an inactive placebo.
After six months of treatment, there was no difference among the groups, according to the findings published in Archives of Internal Medicine.
"It didn't budge," said the lead researcher, Christopher Gardner. "The average LDL cholesterol was virtually unchanged from month to month to month across the three different types of garlic."
Dr. Gardner said it is possible that garlic, which is steeped in ancient folklore, might have other medicinal properties. But "if you are taking it for cholesterol lowering, then you are not using your money wisely."