Carmia Borek, PhD
Recognized in folk medicine for over 5,000 years and confirmed by modern science, garlic has a wide range of health effects.
“Garlic soup,” urged the waiter at the French bistro. “It’s good for you.”
“No thanks,” said Louise. “I have a social life to protect.”
If these two had taken a health quiz, the waiter would have won. Recognized in folk medicine for over 5,000 years and confirmed by modern science, garlic has a wide range of health effects. And, good news for Louise, garlic need not be eaten fresh to be effective. Studies show that aged garlic extract (kyolic), made of organically grown garlic, is more beneficial than fresh garlic and other garlic supplements in boosting immunity and protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer, aging, and drug toxicity.
Garlic’s Critical Compounds
Key to most of garlic’s benefits are sulfur substances such as the water-soluble S-allyl cysteine, which is stable and bioavailable. S-allyl cysteine is found in low amounts in fresh garlic and at high levels in aged garlic extract. Most published findings on garlic’s medicinal benefits are based on research with kyolic aged garlic extract because of its stability, wide range of health effects, and abundance of antioxidants.
Garlic - Good For Your Heart
The ability of garlic substances to protect against cardiovascular disease is largely due to their antioxidant action, lipid-lowering and anticoagulant effects. A breakthrough study at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported in April 2003, shows that aged garlic extract (kyolic) reduces heart attack risk by 50 per cent in cardiac patients. In this double blind, placebo controlled study, kyolic was given at 1,200 milligram per day for one year to cardiac patients on lipid-lowering statins, and compared to patients on placebo (who received no garlic supplement but were on statin treatment). Aged garlic extract reduced plaque buildup in coronary arteries by over 50 per cent, compared to placebo, lowered LDL and triglycerides, and increased HDL. It also reduced blood homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, while placebo patients showed increased homocysteine. The message is that cardiac patients on statins can further reduce the risk of heart attacks by adding aged garlic extract to their diet.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment
A diet rich in garlic and onions reduces the risk of gastrointestinal cancer by up to 50 per cent, with garlic showing the most protection. Experimentally, aged garlic extract was found to mop up cancer-causing free radicals and destroy carcinogens that entered the body thus protecting against many types of cancer, including melanoma, leukemia, cancer of the colon, stomach, breast, and prostate.
Garlic also boosts immunity. Volunteers given fresh garlic showed a 144-per-cent increase in cancer-killing immune cells. Others, given aged garlic extract, showed a 166-per-cent increase in the killer cells.
S-allyl cysteine, and/or S-allyl mercaptocysteine, a sulfur compound unique to aged garlic extract, stops the growth of human breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells and prompts colon cancer cells to commit cell suicide, in a process called apoptosis. This ability suggests garlic’s importance as a potential cancer treatment.
Memory and Learning
A report in the May 2002 issue of Neuroscience Research shows that S-allyl cysteine halts free-radical damage in brain cells and prevents neuron death, by blocking an apoptosis enzyme and thus protecting memory.
A depleted blood supply to the brain (ischemia) can cause stroke, kill neurons, and lead to dementia. Experiments show that S-allyl cysteine protects brain cells following ischemia, enhancing neuron survival by 30 per cent in the hippocampus, the area of learning and memory. Studies in mice prone to early aging show that aged garlic extract prevented cell death in the frontal brain, improved learning and memory, and prolonged longevity.
In a human study, volunteers given 10 milligrams per day of aged garlic extract for three months showed an increased capacity to detoxify a high dose of acetaminophen and prevent liver damage, compared to controls. This has potential use in cases of overdose of acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol).
The old joke - “A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat,” will have to be updated, and not just for the money, as we learn more about the healing properties of aged and odourless garlic extract.