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  Interpretation of JAMA Garlic Study Seriously Flawed. June 18, 1998: Boulder, CO. Newspaper headlines across the country were declaring "Garlic's Charm Debunked," as a result of a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that reported a garlic oil supplement had no effect on blood lipid levels or cholesterol metabolism. The German study was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial that compared the effects of a steam-distilled garlic oil preparation to placebo in 25 patients with moderately high total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Herb Research Foundation President Rob McCaleb responded, "JAMA again shows its bias when it ignores dozens of larger studies and denounces garlic based on a tiny study on one garlic product." Other critics of the study include Dr. Neil Barnard, President of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, who pointed out that the sample size of 25 subjects was too small to be definitive. But the most glaring flaw in the study was that the primary author, Dr. Heiner Berthold, used an inferior garlic oil preparation which he mistakenly assumed to be chemically similar to higher potency forms of garlic.

Many experts believe that the real issue may be determining which chemical constituents play the most important therapeutic role. Once this is known, controversies about which garlic products are most appropriate for cardiovascular health may be resolved. Several comparative studies have found important differences in constituents and potency between garlic oil supplements and dried garlic powder. In 1995, Dr. De A Santos presented a study at the Berlin Garlic Symposium that concluded, "Clearly it is unwise to assume that all commercially available garlic supplements are equally efficacious."

High quality randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies have demonstrated cholesterol-lowering effects of standardized dried garlic powders, dietary garlic, and aged garlic extract--especially in reducing levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. In addition, more than 45 clinical studies have demonstrated other cardiovascular benefits for garlic supplements.-- Krista Morien, HRF
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