Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Garlic brain

One of the major concerns that I see raised by my patients when trying to lose weight is "How can I cut back on food without feeling like I am starving myself?"  Of course we have the discussion about various behavioral techniques (e.g. portioning out your plate ahead of time), and making sure that high satiety vegetables and good fats/protein are adequate at the meals, but that doesn't always stop us from wishing that there wasn't some pill, herb, essential oil, etc that we could take that would shut off our appetite.  It looks like one of those potions that is being touted lately is garlic, as in this little treatise on so-called "super-foods" here.

Fortunately the dietitian quoted in this article had "might" as part of the quote, but I thought I would do a little digging.  And I had to dig quite a bit and I still haven't come up with the source article yet, but I did find a few news articles referring to research done at the Weizman Institute in Israel.  (Unable to link at the time secondary to the internet not cooperating with me today).

 What I found was the following:
1) The studies were done in rats but not in humans, so this could only work in rodents.
2) It appeared as though the allicin was extracted from the garlic and given to the rats.  Which makes me wonder how many garlic cloves I would have to eat to get the same amount, and would it be realistic?
3) It appears as though the rats were given an infusion of the allicin into their GI tracts and then allowed to eat.  Would such a compound survive an oral administration?
As I said, I am still trying to dig up the source article, so I may get some more answers as I keep digging.  Right now, however, it looks like we are in the "well that's nice but let's see how it works on humans first and see how practical it would be in the real world."

Would it hurt to add garlic to your food?  Only if you are allergic I suppose (or you have IBS as too much garlic can be a problem for those on a low FODMOP diet).  I have a lot of patients who are unfamiliar with seasonings other than salt and pepper and garlic can be used as an easy introduction into cooking food for yourself that actually tastes good; if their healthier meal plan actually contains foods that taste good you might be willing to stay on it. (Garlic can help from a behavoiral perspective).  If you add a lot of garlic you might be less inclined to eat as much of certain things for fear of your breath driving other people away from you (also behavioral).  And for some people, even if they like garlic, they have to stop eating because the taste is too strong.  Some of you might find that if the garlic is on something you already tend to overeat on, like pasta, you may not find that it doesn't make a difference.

Take home message--more studies need to be done on garlic to determine if it helps satiety and what form and amounts are required.  In the meantime, it can add flavor to food as long as you are watching your portions and what you eat in the first place.  

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