Garlic Boosts Overall Antioxidant
Levels and Blocks Cancer
Garlic is probably nature's most potent food. It
is one of the reasons people who eat the Mediterranean diet live
such long healthy lives. Garlic is also a powerful performer in
the research lab. Several new studies have documented its ability
to promote heart and cardiovascular health, prevent and treat
cancer, and create a healthy lipid profile. Others have shown
garlic prevents platelet aggregation and reduces high blood pressure.
Garlic has strong anti-inflammatory properties. One of the most
interesting of the recent findings is that garlic
increases the overall antioxidant
levels of the body.
Garlic decreased serum glucose and blood pressure while increasing
The chain of events leading to vascular disease in people with
diabetes and high
blood pressure is characterized by free radical damage. Scientists
at the University of Kuwait were interested in finding out whether
garlic could reduce free radical damage. They measured total serum
antioxidants in diabetic and hypertensive rats before and after
treatment with garlic. An analogue of vitamin E, glutathione,
and vitamin C were measured, and measurement was verified with
reliability and reproducibility coefficients.
After three weeks of treatment with garlic extract, the serum
levels of antioxidants were significantly higher than the pretreatment
levels in both diabetic and hypertensive rats. The increased serum
antioxidant levels were paralleled by a decrease in serum glucose
in the garlic-treated diabetic rats, and lowered systolic blood
pressure in the garlic-treated hypertensive rats, showing that
treatment with garlic can increase total antioxidant status. This
study was reported in the February 20th Evidenced Based Complementary
and Alternative Medicine.
Garlic has a long history as a healer
Scientifically known as Allium sativa, garlic has been
famous throughout history for its ability to fight off viruses
and bacteria. Louis Pasteur noted in 1858 that bacteria died when
they were doused with garlic. From the Middle Ages on, garlic
has been used to treat wounds, being ground or sliced and applied
directly to wounds to inhibit the spread of infection. The Russians
refer to garlic as Russian penicillin.
Since ancient times, garlic has been a popular remedy for intestinal
disorders, flatulence, worms, respiratory infections, skin diseases,
symptoms of aging, and many other ailments. Albert Schweitzer
used it to treat cholera and typhus. In France, farmers even fed
garlic and onions to their horses to dissolve clots in the animals'
Garlic is a powerful cancer blocker
A number of the new studies on garlic that have recently appeared
deal with garlic and cancer. One from the Republic of Korea cites
diallyl disulfide (DADS) as the most prevalent oil-soluble sulfur
compound in garlic, inhibiting cell proliferation in many cell
lines. Scientists there examined DADS ability to kill cells in
a process involving free radical production. They found that the
famous tumor suppressor gene, p53, arrested the cell cycle when
DADS treatment was present. Cancer cells died following 24 hour
DADS treatment that activated the p53 gene. They also found that
DADS induced cell death was prevented by treatment with a compound
known to prevent p53 dependent cell death by reducing free radical
levels in the mitochrondria, the cellular furnaces. Their results
showed that mitochrondrial free radicals may serve as second messengers
in DADS-induced cell death, which requires activation of p53.
This study can be found in the January Journal of Biochemical
and Molecular Toxicology.
Diallyl disulfide is not the most potent compound found in garlic,
but it has an advantage because it is the less volatile of the
compounds. DADS does not degrade as quickly and its health benefits
survive cooking. Garlic needs to be chopped or crushed to produce
the these sulfides. If it is cooked whole, it loses most of its
medicinal value and health benefits.
DADS is a potent booster of the immune system, and improves blood
quality and circulation. It has been shown in studies to lower
LDL cholesterols levels, and through this action may help keep
the heart and cardiovascular system healthy.
Another recent study, reported in the March Mutation Research,
revealed the action through which garlic decreases genetic mutations
and reduces the number of small and large papillary lung tumors.
And yet another new study involved lymphocytes which are responsible
for the immune response. There are two main types of lymphocytes,
B cells and T cells. While B cells make antibodies that attack
bacteria and toxins, T cells attack body cells themselves when
they have become cancerous. Scientists in the Republic of China
studied the effects of garlic on the balance of two T helper cell
subtypes. Th1 and Th2. Rats were given garlic oil or corn oil
every other day for two weeks. Their cervical lymph nodes were
collected to assay the lymphocyte proliferation rate and the production
of cancer killing cytokines. Garlic oil enhanced the lymphocyte
proliferation rate accompanied by an elevated production of all
four cytokines when given at a dose of 100mg/kg.
Allicin is garlic's most potent compound
Allicin is the compound providing the largest range of garlic's
health benefits. Allicin also does not occur in garlic cloves,
but is produced when garlic is finely chopped or crushed. The
finer the chopping and the more intense the crushing, the more
is produced and the stronger is the medicinal effect.
Allicin has both antibiotic and anti-fungal properties, and made
garlic a favorite in folk medicine for treating skin infections
such as athlete's foot. Allicin is potent stuff. Too much exposure
to garlic can result in blistered skin.
Allicin starts to degrade immediately after it is produced, so
a person seeking to reap its full medicinal benefits should use
it immediately after crushing it. Cooking increases the degradation
of allicin, and microwaving completely destroys allicin and eliminates
any health benefits.
To gain the optimal in medicinal effects, garlic should be crushed
and added to food immediately before serving.
Garlic is a beauty aid
The high sulfur content in garlic makes it able to tone up the
skin and make hair more lustrous. Garlic helps make skin smooth
and supple, and strengthens nails. The sulfur in garlic works
with B complex vitamins to support body metabolism, helping to
keep people looking trim. It helps keep youthful elasticity in
tissues, and helps treat and prevent dandruff.
Garlic is an excellent source of the cancer fighting mineral selenium.
Selenium works synergistically with vitamin
E to boost antioxidant power and prevent or slow signs of
aging and hardening of tissues through oxidation. Selenium is
critical for the production of glutathione peroxidase, the body's
primary antioxidant that is found in every cell. Males are especially
sensitive to selenium levels. Almost half their body's supply
concentrates in the testicles and portions of the seminal ducts
adjacent to the prostate gland. Selenium is lost in the semen
and should be replenished daily.
Always buy organic garlic when possible
When buying garlic, make sure the bulbs are dry with plenty of
papery covering. If any green shoots are present, the garlic is
old and its valuable compounds have degraded. Garlic sold in traditional
outlets has been chemically treated to keep it from sprouting,
so technically it is no longer a live food. Always buy organic
garlic when possible.
The stronger the taste of the garlic, the more sulfur content
it has and therefore the greater are the medicinal benefits. Organic
garlic tends to have a stronger but finer flavor than conventionally
produced garlic, suggesting a higher sulfur content.
Supplements are another way to get garlic's benefits
Many people who do not like the taste of garlic or who do not
do much cooking rely on garlic supplements. Aged garlic extract
is reported to have many of the benefits found in raw garlic,
including liver protection, immune-enhancement, and cancer blocking
actions. It also exhibits potent antioxidant activities.
As the name implies, the extract is aged for up to twenty months.
Over this time period the harsh and irritating compounds in garlic
are converted naturally into stable and safe sulfur compounds.
Aged garlic extract contains primarily water-soluble sulfur compounds
as well as a smaller amount of a variety of oil-soluble sulfur
compounds. Aged garlic extract has been found safe in toxicological
Reference Source 136
March 12, 2009