Many of us have a love-hate relationship with garlic. It is divine when a hint, un soupçon d'ail, transforms a bland dish into a heavenly one, but many people are put off by garlic breath and some stomach troubles when consuming the large amounts needed to reap the bulbs benefits.

We now know that garlics health effects do not depend on its odour, which is caused by the volatile substance allicin. Medical studies show that odourless aged garlic extract made with organic garlic provides similar health benefits as those found in the fresh bulb.

Garlic is rich in antioxidants, including organosulphur compounds, selenium, and polyphenols. These help fight free radicals and lower the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Cancer Preventive

Studies have shown that high consumption of garlic can reduce the risk of stomach and colon cancer by up to 50 percent; a new clinical study in England found that aged garlic extract lowered the risk of colon cancer by stopping the growth of precancerous tumours.

Heart-Healthy Helper

High LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, oxidative stress, and high blood pressure are risk factors for atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke, as are platelet clumping, poor circulation, and high homocysteine levels.

In one study, swallowing chewed garlic lowered cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, while swallowing whole cloves showed no protective cardiovascular effect. The most consistent protection was found in patients consuming garlic as an aged extract, showing a 5 to 7 percent lowering of cholesterol, reduction in triglycerides, LDL, and blood pressure, prevention of platelet clumping, increased blood flow, reduction in homocysteine, and elevation of HDL (good cholesterol). Another study showed that garlic intake resulted in a reduction in plaque formation in the coronary arteries of heart disease patients, substantially lowering their risk of heart attack.

Improving Immunity

Garlic has demonstrated immuno-enhancing actions, helping to fight infections and potentially battle life-threatening diseases, such as cancer. In one study, participants who ate 10 cloves of garlic a day showed a 139.9 percent increase in the activity of their natural-killer cells; participants who took garlic extract showed a 155 percent increase in the activity levels of these immune-system cells.

Dementia and its most common form, Alzheimers disease, are age-related conditions that we fear. Preclinical studies with aged garlic extract showed it protected against age-related neuronal death.

Fresh garlic is a powerful health-promoting food, but if you are troubled by its odour or side effects, you may elect to supplement with a standardized, odourless aged garlic extract that provides garlics benefits without the side effects.

About the Author

Carmia Borek, PhD, is a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, and a consultant and author in the fields of nutrition and diet, health, anti-aging, and disease prevention.