Garlic and Disease Prevention.
December 26, 2013 Admin 0
Consumption of Garlic (Allium Sativum) is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in humans, primarily through such mechanisms as inhibition of platelet aggregation and improvements to serum lipid profiles. But what of Garlic’s role in the prevention of other diseases in humans ? Some empirical evidence continues to point to the anti-cancer properties of crushed or whole garlic, garlic extracts, garlic oil or any of the specific organosulphurous compounds generated by processing garlic.
Two specific organosulphurous compounds are present in Garlic cloves ; Gamma-glutamylcysteines and Cysteine Sulphoxides. Approximately three quarters or more of the Cysteine Sulphoxides in Garlic are Allylcysteine Sulphoxides. These compounds have been shown to help the body synthesize Glutathione (a major antioxidant) and reduce lipid oxidation. It is the effects of Garlic consumption on carcinogen metabolism that may be more specific to the plants role in disease prevention or treatment though.
To date, the most prominent support for Garlic as an anti-cancer substance concerns its role in certain types of cancer such as stomach, colon and bowel. Rather than this being the result of the antioxidant boosting effects or tumour inhibition properties, it may well be more to do with Garlic’s strong anti-microbial effects. Garlic extracts have been demonstrated to possess both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Thiosulfinate (in particular, Allicin) exhibit strong antimicrobial effects in the gut. The link between Helicobater Pylori (the main cause of stomach ulcers in adults) and cancers has been observed in clinical trials. Those who have developed peptic ulcers, usually have a greater risk of developing stomach cancer also.
Due to the anti-microbial effects of garlic, some studies (in particular Steinmetz and Potter, 1991) illustrated how stomach cancer is lower in individuals with a high intake of allium vegetables in developed and developing countries, usually associated with nutritional deficiencies and complications from poor diet. Whether this translates well into the western diets (which have wide variation already) has yet to be explained. A larger amount of studies would have to be conducted to confirm any data or theories on the role of garlic as a cancer preventative or in its prevention of other diseases. This is apart from its already documented benefits in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
In summary, epidemiological studies in human subjects strongly suggest that reasonably high intakes of garlic or garlic products can help protect against certain types of cancer, such as stomach or colorectal, but evidence to suggest prevention of other cancers is quite limited. It should be noted though, that reasonably high intakes of Garlic despite being somewhat pungent, are unlikely to be harmful and just reducing your cardiovascular disease risks would be reason enough to consume or cook with garlic or other Allium vegetables, such as Onions.
Such Allium vegetables already form the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet, a diet strongly associated with disease prevention and longevity. One issue with Garlic is its labelling as a superfood, when, just like any other nutrient rich plant or foodstuff, it needs to be consumed as part of a holistic approach to eating, rather than just relying on one plant, foodstuff, phytochemical or vitamin to augment a poor or incomplete diet. Garlic should be seen as one aspect or one ingredient to a healthy diet.
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