Sunday, January 14, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 14, 2001

Health Q&A
Garlic praised for lowering cholesterol

Advertiser News Services

Q. Can garlic lower cholesterol, and is it safe?

A. It does appear to have modest cholesterol-lowering abilities, according to Richard Harkness, a consultant pharmacist and syndicated health columnist.

Studies suggest garlic may offer many healthful benefits.

Advertiser library photo • Feb. 24, 1999

Many studies, though not all, have found that certain forms of garlic can lower total cholesterol levels by about 9 to 12 percent, as well as possibly improve the ratio of good and bad cholesterol. Virtually all the studies used garlic standardized to alliin content. Garlic oil does not seem to be effective.

Garlic also may offer benefits apart from its effects on cholesterol. In Europe, garlic has become an all-around treatment for preventing atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries), the cause of heart disease and strokes. It also appears to slightly lower high blood pressure, protect against free radicals and thin the blood.

A typical dosage of garlic is 900 milligrams daily of a garlic powder extract standardized to contain 1.3 percent alliin, providing about 12,000 micrograms of alliin daily. However, much controversy exists over the proper dosage and form of garlic, Harkness said.

Raw garlic taken in high doses can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, facial flushing, rapid pulse and insomnia. Garlic applied to the skin can cause irritation, blistering and even severe burns.

Since garlic can thin the blood, combining it with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin), heparin or aspirin might cause a risk of excessive bleeding. Likewise, theoretically, for natural supplements that thin the blood, such as ginkgo or high-dose vitamin E.

Q. Is it true that eating every two to three hours can optimize weight loss?

A. It’s not universally true. Some people do well with this eating strategy, while others do not, says Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientist for Weight Watchers International.

If you’re prone to overeating whenever you sit down to eat, eating more times a day can simply provide more opportunities to overeat. For many, it’s easy to forget the "mini" in mini-meals.

Likewise, if you’re not a planner, then eating whatever is available every few hours can rack up the calories very quickly, she said.

The solution is to find the eating pattern that works best for you based on both your lifestyle and hunger patterns, then stick with it.

Q. If I have a fever, is it good to try to bring it down?

A. Not always. If you have a cold, say physicians, a low-grade fever means that your immune system is working and that your body is trying to fight off an infection.

"One of the ways the body can do that is by increasing its temperature," says Marc Darr, a family practitioner on staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

Dr. Paul Stander, an internal medicine specialist on staff at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, said that in most cases people with colds should be less concerned with low-grade fevers and more watchful of symptoms such as sore throat, bronchial congestion, shortness of breath or aggressive coughing that continues beyond the normal five- to 10-day life of a cold.

Stander said you should see a physician if you suspect pneumonia (chest pain when you cough) or strep (sore throat so painful that you can barely swallow).

You should also seek medical care if that fever goes beyond the low-grade cap of 101-102 degrees.

"At 105 or 106 degrees, you can have brain damage," Darr says.

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