In the last few decades, cholesterol is well-known to have a bad reputation. However, one must understand that cholesterol is also vital for our health and well-being. So what is the truth behind this misconception on cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, whitish-yellow fat that is found in the blood stream and it is a crucial building block in the manufacturing of vitamin D, sex hormones and bile acids. In a healthy person, 80% of cholesterol is made by the liver whereas the balance 20% is obtained from the daily diet. Thus overall, cholesterol is actually required by the human’s body. The problem starts when one consumes a daily diet that is high in cholesterol or when there is overproduction of cholesterol in the liver of this group of individuals who suffer from a medical condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia.
It is believed that one should go for a blood test known as lipid profile at least once in a year to find out his or her cholesterol and triglyceride status. This is important as the elevated levels of cholesterol in the body can be a silent killer without showing any symptoms in the long run. Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to the formation of plaques in the arteries which in turn can result in a heart attack or what is known as a myocardial infarction. According to the 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey, it was revealed that 47.7% of Malaysians adults 18 years and above have high blood cholesterol. Among the factors that result in high levels of cholesterol in the blood include unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, obesity and genetics. On the other hand, recommended lifestyle changes for those with high blood cholesterol include cessation of smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, increasing daily fibre intake, increasing physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight.
In general, doctors would prescribe medication in order to help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood stream. Among the major drug categories that are often prescribed to reduce blood cholesterol level include statins, fibrates, resins and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Besides drugs, nutritional intervention is also another approach to reduce the levels of cholesterol in affected individuals. One of the superfood that is gaining more attention in the recent years to reduce the levels of blood cholesterol is black garlic.
In a study carried out by Jung and colleagues (2014), it was revealed that consumption of aged black garlic improved blood lipid profiles in patients with mild hypercholesterolemia where the levels of the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) was found to be increased. In addition, these researchers also reported that aged black garlic significantly decreased the levels of serum apo B, an independent and high predictive risk factor of coronary artery disease. It is important to know at this point how black garlic reduces the levels of blood cholesterol. In a separate study by Ha and colleagues (2015), it was reported that consumption of black garlic in rats lowers the expression of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c (SREBP-1c) mRNA which results in the downregulation of lipid and cholesterol metabolism. As a result, the blood levels of cholesterol, total lipids and triglyceride were reduced.
The studies carried out above highlight the fact that black garlic may help to support healthy cholesterol levels in the body. Hence, black garlic can be used as an alternative treatment therapy to reduce the levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the human body.
ASSOC. PROF. DR. HARESH KUMAR KANTILAL
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Haresh Kumar Kantilal is an expert in areas of research in microbiology, medical science and nutrition.
An associate professor at the International Medical University Malaysia (IMU)
Conducted numerous health talks and workshops on health topics across Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and also has published both local and international journals.