Garlic as cancer fighter
Epidemiological studies have found that in areas of the world where people eat a lot of garlic and onions, there is decreased incidence of cancer. Compounds in garlic have antioxidant properties which may play a role in inhibiting cancer by protecting against cellular damage from free radicals. The Iowa Women’s Health Study found that of all foods evaluated, garlic showed the strongest association with decreased risk for colon cancer.
Intriguing possibilities but few solid answers
The claims made for garlic don’t go unchallenged. In the view of some researchers, many of the more than 1,000 studies on garlic’s effects that have been performed over the past two decades were flawed in design or execution. The studies mentioned above and others now underway examine the findings of earlier studies or test new hypotheses. The results are intriguing, but so far little has been proven concerning garlic’s health benefits.
While researchers are reasonably certain of garlic’s ability to lower cholesterol and reduce clotting, they don’t yet have definite proof of some of the other potential benefits. But as the quality of studies improves, they should begin to get some clearer answers.
What form is best?
For those who have decided to increase their garlic consumption, the best way to do that isn’t clear either. Questions remain about what’s a safe and effective “Dose” and in what form the garlic should be consumed. Eating garlic as a food may reduce its effectiveness because it appears that the stomach breaks down allicin. Fresh garlic also may lose its effectiveness quickly after cutting or crushing, and cooking may either decrease or increase the potency of various compounds in garlic. Taking very large amounts of garlic also causes anemia and irritation of the intestinal tract for some people.
For many, garlic’s odor is offensive. A possible solution is to use enteric–coated garlic tablets, the coating allows the tablet to pass through the stomach intact so that the garlic can be absorbed by the small intestine. Such tablets are odorless. Some researchers use aged garlic extract (AGE) which contains a possibly more effective sulfur compound than does fresh garlic. Despite the questions that remain about the health benefits of garlic, there is still nothing wrong with enjoying a meal with this versatile herb.