Join Date: Oct 2005
Garlic. For years, in movies, it has been keeping vampires at bay, but according to mountains of research, vampires aren't the only things garlic can fend off. Joining the ranks are colds, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, infection and even impotence. Here we will take a look at the various benefits to our health of eating garlic.
Colds: One of the most common ailments garlic has been touted to treat is the cold. Upon the onset of the sniffles, many people testify that consuming a clove or more of raw garlic takes them away. How can a clove of garlic possibly help? Studies have shown that garlic extract improves immune function, giving our natural defense system a boost, and helping it conserve our levels of antioxidants in our system. It is this strengthening of the immune system that aids in its support for other health related conditions.
Cancer: For years research has been conducted on the effects of garlic on cancer. A healthy immune system is necessary to fight cancer, and we already know conclusively that garlic supports that system. Studies have been done on the population and in animals, as well as in test tubes. What is determined is that garlic has the ability to reduce the formation of cancerous cells. Garlic is shown to actually block cancer causing compounds from forming, and slow the growth of tumor cells. Garlic is especially helpful in blocking oesophagal, breast, stomach, prostate and bladder cancer. Research has proven that compounds in garlic not only slow the rate of growth in a tumor, but can reduce the tumor size by half. When studying the effects on breast cancer, these compounds can actually prevent carcinogens from attaching to breast cells. What are these wondrous compounds? They are diallye disulphide and s-allycystein. These compounds form when garlic is crushed. Among the sulfur components of garlic there are some called ajoenes, which are also noted for their "antitumor" abilities.
Heart Disease: Just as there are many factors that cause heart disease, there are many benefits of garlic that aid in preventing and treating it. So how can garlic help keep our heart in check? First, it helps lower our cholesterol levels. It raies our HDL (good) cholesterol levels, prevents LDL (bad) cholesterol from building up on arterial walls. This reduces the chances of plaque forming in our arteries. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels by 9% in people who ate 2 cloves of garlic per day.
Recent studies have also shown it to protect the aorta. The aorta is the heart blood vessel that maintians blood pressure and flow while the heart is pumping. Age, poor diet and environmental factors such as smoking can damage the aorta, causing it to stiffen. Studies have also shown that regular consumption of garlic slows the aging of the aorta and helps keep it flexible.
Hypertension: Another heart benefit of garlic is its ability to help control our blood pressure by thinning our blood. Once again the chemical found in garlic, called ajoene, thins the blood and keeps clots from forming. Studies done with general populations have shown that where there is more garlic consumed in a population, there is also a reduced incidence of hypertension and heart disease. Although garlic's heart healthy benefits may be new to some, for centuries Chinese herbalists have been using garlic to treat people with angina attacks and circulatory disorders.
Infection: Since 1858 garlic has also been known for its anti-bacterial properties. At this time Louis Pasteur discovered that bacterial cells died when they were saturated with garlic. Other cases of it being used as an antibiotic in history include WW II, when British doctors used it to treat those wounded in battle, and Albert Schweitzer used garlic to treat typhus and cholera. Garlic is known to have not only antibacterial but antiviral and antifungal abilities as well. It is effective against intestinal parasites, recurrent yeast infections and the growth candida albicans is slowed by garlic. With this in mind, it should be condsidered only as an aid to antibiotics in fighting infections, as it is not enough to replace them. Garlic can help by stimulating T-cells that help fight infection.
Impotence: Garlic has also been found to be helpful to those dealing with impotence. Folklore dating back centuries has hailed garlic as an aphrodisiac, and now studies have proven this legend to be true. We know that garlic aids in blood circulation and keeps veins and arteries youthful, but that is only one way it helps with impotence. According to researchers, to obtain an erection an enzyme is required called nitric oxide synthase, and compounds in garlic stimulate the production of this enzyme in people who suffer from low levels of it.
Pregnancy: One can also benefit from garlic during pregnancy. According to a study done by doctors in a London hospital, garlic supplementation may help weight-gain for babies that may be at risk for low birth weight. The study also found that the chance of other at-birth risk factors could be reduced, such as pre-eclampsia, which is associated with hypertension.
The list of studies involving garlic and our health could go on and on. Continuous research is being done showing the association between garlic and improved memory and learning function, as well as findings that show it can help prevent the onset of "stress-induced hyperglycemia". Recently, it has also been studied and found to help in detoxification of bodily systems, by increasing the levels of antioxidants in the body and decreasing the formation of toxic compounds.
So we see the many areas that garlic can help us, but what should we do now? Begin ingesting six cloves a day? First of all, one should never make changes to their lifestyle in regards to their health without consulting a physician first. Your doctor needs to know if you plan to begin supplementing garlic. If you are taking medication for high blood pressure or are scheduled for surgery, garlic intake can affect both of these things, due to its blood thinning and anticoagulative properties, so it is a must to consult with your physician before making any changes or additions.
Once you know it will be beneficial to you to add garlic, how should you do it? Well, most people simply like to add it to their food, but there are guidelines you should remember. One tends to reap more of garlic's benefits if it is chopped or cut. It can be added at the end of cooking, so it doesn't lose too many of its beneficial properties. Although cooking can destroy some sulfur compounds in garlic (and it is these compounds that are beneficial) it can also change the structure of some into other beneficial compounds, so you still receive the benefits of garlic, even with cooking.
Whether raw or cooked, garlic is beneficial. But some people can not tolerate the taste or the garlic breath and therefore prefer to add garlic to their diet via supplements. So how much garlic is enough? If you are taking a supplement, ask your pharmacist or read the label. If you are adding fresh garlic to your food, start with a little at a time as too much garlic can upset your stomach if you are not used to it.
Even starting with a little can bring you health benefits. Not only will you enjoy the zing added to your food, you can enjoy knowing you're doing something good for yourself.