From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published March 5, 2010 04:03 PM

Garlic is Good for You

Garlic is known in legend as great against vampires and it is quite nice in many delicious recipes. Researchers have now designed a urine test that can simultaneously measure the extent of a potential carcinogenic process and a marker of garlic consumption in humans. In a small pilot study, the test suggested that the more garlic people consumed, the lower the levels of the potential carcinogenic process were.


In some studies garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. However, these actions are less clear in humans. Garlic is also claimed to help prevent heart disease (including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure).

Perhaps the most indispensable of herbs (or vegetables) garlic has a long and distinguished history that gives credence to its reputation as a one of the most valuable and seasoning and medicinal herbs in existence.

Garlic is mentioned by name in the Old Testament and the Muslim Quran as one of the foods the Israelites missed most during their years of wandering. Garlic was also considered sacred among the ancient Egyptians who buried it in the tombs of their deceased kings.

It is not surprising that the ancients ascribed many properties to the very strong smelling garlic. It was alluded to drive away evil spirits, protect against werewolves and vampires, protect from evil and to bring good luck. The ancient Egyptians used garlic to treat many different conditions. The ancient Greeks credited it for repelling scorpions and treating dog bites.

During the course of history, garlic has been touted as a cure for everything from the common cold to the plague. Garlic has powerful antibiotic properties due to the presence of several sulfur compounds.

The present research is all about body processes associated with nitrogen containing compounds. These processes include nitrosation, or the conversion of some substances found in foods or contaminated water into carcinogens.

“What we were after was developing a method where we could measure in urine two different compounds, one related to the risk for cancer, and the other, which indicates the extent of consumption of garlic,” said Earl Harrison, Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Human Nutrition at Ohio State and senior author of the study.

“Our results showed that those were inversely related to one another – meaning that the more we had the marker for garlic consumption, the less there was of the marker for the risk of cancer.”

Ultimately, the scientists hope to find that a nutritional substance could be a way to control at least some body carcinogens.

About 20 percent of nitrates that are consumed convert to nitrites. A cascade of events can convert these compounds into what are called nitrosamines, and many, but not all, nitrosamines are linked to cancer.

Vegetables also contain nitrates, but previous research has suggested that the vitamin C in vegetables lowers the risk that those nitrates will convert to something toxic. Researchers suspected that nutrients in garlic could have a similar antioxidant effects as does vitamin C.

The study is published in a recent issue of the journal Analytical Biochemistry.

The present research began with the small human study based at Penn State University. Researchers there fed participants a week long diet lacking any nitrates or garlic. They then gave the participants a dose of sodium nitrate – in a formulation that would not become toxic, but which would show a marker in the urine of the potentially toxic process.

“What this research does suggest is that garlic may play some role in inhibiting formation of these nitrogen based toxic substances. This was a very small pilot study, so it’s also possible that the more garlic you have, the better it would be."

When the urine samples were analyzed, it showed that the participants who had taken garlic had lower concentrations of the marker for nitrosation than did those who took no garlic. Though the differences were slight, the consumption of 5 grams (1 clove) of garlic per day was associated with the lowest level of the marker for potential carcinogens.

“What this research does suggest, however, is that garlic may play some role in inhibiting formation of these nitrogen based toxic substances. This was very small pilot study, so it’s also possible that the more garlic you have, the better it would be.

“So if you like garlic and you like garlic containing foods, go out and have as much as you want. There’s no indication it’s going to hurt you, and it may well help you.”

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