Garlic, Cancer and You

Garlic: that oh so deliciously pungent bulb from the lily family that has been around humankind since the invention of writing,  has been valued for its ability to spice up a meal, whet the appetite and to help cure a host of different ailments. Now, today’s researchers are taking a second look at garlic and are finding out that it not only helps makes things taste good, it might also play a role in preventing certain types of cancer.

Garlic and cancer

A number of studies have been done focusing on garlic’s organic allyl sulfur components and their ability to effectively inhibit the cancer process. These compounds make cells more vulnerable to the stress which is created when cells divide. Since cancer cells divide more rapidly than normal cells, they are susceptible to these specific stressors.  Therefore, cancer cells have a much greater potential to suffer damage from the allyl sulfur compounds that are found in garlic.

The studies on garlic have revealed that garlic’s benefits are not limited to any specific species, to any particular tissue or even to a specific type of carcinogen. However, there is a strong link between garlic and the prevention on prostate and stomach cancers.  37 different observational studies have been done on people exploring the use of garlic and cancer prevention. Of the 37, 28 of the studies have revealed that garlic does play some role in cancer prevention.

 It is important to note that these studies are observational: comparing the incidence of cancer among garlic and non-garlic consuming populations. Clinical studies are still needed for further verification, but unfortunately government funding for garlic research is limited and pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to study widely available plants that might have health benefits since there is no profit in it.

A complicated chemistry

Garlic’s chemistry is extremely complicated and how garlic products are manufactured and processed greatly effects the medicinal value of its various chemical constituents.  Peeling garlic and then turning into an oil or powder can actually increase the number and variety of active compounds. The peeling process releases the enzyme allinase and kick starts the process that leads to the chemical reaction that produces diallyl disulfide. Diallyl Disulfide is also formed when garlic is crushed or chopped, however if it is cooked immediately after peeling and chopping the cancer fighting benefit of this sulfide is lost. Some secientis have recommended that you let the garlic sit for 15-20 minutes after it has been peeled in order to allow the allinase reaction to occur.  





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