Garlic, like its cousins the onion and the shallot, is a member of the Allium family that is infamously distinctive for its strong odor. Surprisingly, the origin of garlic’s characteristic smell is also the explanation behind its anticancer abilities.
The high content of the odorous sulfur-containing compounds diallyl sulfide (DAS) and diallyl disulfide (DADS) play the principal role in cancer prevention: they have the ability to prevent carcinogenic damage to healthy cells by reducing reactivity of carcinogens with healthy cells and by accelerating the elimination of the harmful carcinogens from the body. It is also believed that DAS may directly attack tumor cells and destroy them by triggering tumor cell death.
Garlic has been found to be most advantageous in the prevention of esophageal, stomach, and colon cancers. It also may play a role in prostate, breast, and lung cancer.
A Queen’s-led team has discovered the reason why garlic is so good for us. Chemistry professor Derek Pratt led the study. Their findings are published in the January 2009 issue of the international chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.
The research team questioned the ability of allicin to trap damaging radicals so effectively, and considered the possibility that a decomposition product of allicin may instead be responsible. Through experiments with synthetically-produced allicin, they found that an acid produced when the compound decomposes rapidly reacts with radicals.
“Basically the allicin compound has to decompose in order to generate a potent antioxidant,” explains Dr. Pratt, who is Canada Research Chair in Free Radical Chemistry. “The reaction between the sulfenic acid and radicals is as fast as it can get, limited only by the time it takes for the two molecules to come into contact. No one has ever seen compounds, natural or synthetic, react this quickly as antioxidants.”
The researcher is confident that a link exists between the reactivity of the sulfenic acid and the medicinal benefits of garlic. “…until now there has been no convincing explanation as to why garlic is beneficial,” says Dr. Pratt. “I think we have taken the first step in uncovering a fundamental chemical mechanism which may explain garlic’s medicinal benefits.”
- Garlic is most effective if crushed, chopped or eaten raw in salad dressings and salsa
- A clove a day keeps the doctor away, and 2 or 3 will prevent a cold (see my cold remedy under Diet and Nutrition /Herbs and Spices)
- If a recipe calls for garlic, wait until the last 10 minutes of cooking to add the garlic
- Be careful not to eat too much as garlic can irritate your digestive system… I don’t think you’ll have any problem eating 3-4 cloves a day
- Don’t microwave garlic – it this kills the active ingredients!
I will be adding plenty of recipes that call for my friend the ‘stinky rose’.
~ Chewing raw parsley will help get rid of garlic breath! ♥