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Is garlic good for your heart? It all depends on the form you take.

It's well-accepted and well-documented that garlic is good for your health. It thins your blood, lowers blood pressure, and protects against heart disease. But not all garlic and garlic supplements are alike. Some forms are better than others. In fact, you may be depending on a form of garlic that has very little ability to maintain or protect your health.

The chemical in garlic that has these protective capabilities is called allicin. Among its many characteristics, it's antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and is a potent antioxidant. The problem is, allicin isn't very stable.

A group of Japanese researchers recently found that cooking destroys allicin quickly. They also noticed that it breaks down over time when it's just standing around, like the jars of peeled garlic cloves you can find in grocery stores. Allicin was more stable in 20% alcohol than in water or vegetable oil, but it's unlikely you'll find a garlic product preserved in alcohol.

Allicin isn't present in garlic until it's chopped. Then, an enzyme called alliinase acts on alliin (a chemical that is found in garlic) and turns it into allicin. So if you chop some cloves of raw garlic and add them to your salad, it could contribute to your health. This has its own consequences, including bad breath and body odor.

If you want the protective effects of garlic, your best bet is to buy a garlic supplement and take it daily. Buy a brand with guaranteed high amounts of allicin, such as Kyolic. If the allicin content isn't listed on the label, find one that is. Garlic lends a wonderful flavor to many foods, but it's only beneficial to your health when it's high in allicin.

Fujisawa, H, et al. "Biological and chemical stability of garlic-derived allicin," J Agric Food Chem, 56(11), 2008.
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Title Annotation:Nutrition Detective
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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