GUELPH, CANADA. Elevated levels of total cholesterol and low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are well established risk factors for coronary heart disease. It is also clear that people with accompanying high levels of triglycerides (triacylglycerol) face an even higher risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown that high triglyceride levels alone are powerful risk factors for atherosclerosis and heart disease especially among women. Supplementation with garlic has been shown to lower overall cholesterol levels and LDL levels significantly while fish oil supplementation is known to lower triglyceride levels. Unfortunately, fish oil supplementation has also been found to increase LDL levels, a highly undesirable effect.
Now researchers at the University of Guelph report that a combination of garlic and fish oil is highly effective in lowering the levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Their study involved 50 men with a total cholesterol level in excess of 5.2 mmol/L (200 mg/dL). The men were randomly allocated into four groups for the 12-week long experiment. Group 1 was given a daily supplement of 900 mg garlic placebo and 12 g oil placebo, Group 2 took 900 mg garlic (Kwai) and 12 g oil placebo, Group 3 took 900 mg garlic placebo and 12 g fish oil [12 1-gram capsules each containing 180 mg EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 120 mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)] while Group 4 took 900 mg garlic and 12 g fish oil per day. All supplements were taken in three divided doses with meals. At the end of the 12- week study period significant reductions were observed for total cholesterol (12.2 per cent), LDL cholesterol (9.5 per cent), and triacylglycerol (34.3 per cent) in the group taking both garlic and fish oil supplements. A significant, reduction (beneficial) in the ratios of total cholesterol to high-density- lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and LDL to HDL was also observed for both the garlic groups (with and without fish oil). Garlic by itself did not lower triglyceride concentrations while fish oils by themselves actually increased LDL concentrations significantly (by 8.5 per cent). The researchers conclude that supplementing with garlic pills and fish oils in combination is effective in lowering blood levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides while at the same time providing a beneficial decrease in the ratios of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol and in LDL to HDL cholesterol.
Adler, Adam J. and Holub, Bruce J. Effect of garlic and fish-oil supplementation on serum lipid and lipoprotein concentrations in hypercholesterolemic men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 65, February 1997, pp. 445-50
Kris-Etherton, Penny M., et al. Efficacy of multiple dietary therapies in reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 65, February 1997, pp. 560-1 (editorial