A recent report by Natural News praises the health and skin benefits of compounds found in garlic. In addition to the antifungal, antiaging and skin smoothing benefits of garlic, the study also found the fragrant food to increase antioxidant levels and possibly lower blood pressure and glucose levels.
According to the report, allicin, garlic's most potent compound, provides the largest range of garlic's health benefits, including antibiotic and antifungal properties. The fresh garlic bulb contains alliin, alicin and volatile oils and, according to Stuart, when the garlic clove is crushed, the odorless compound alliin is converted to allicin via the enzyme allinase. Thus, the finer the chopping and the more intense the crushing, the more allicin is produced and the stronger the medicinal effect. The compound has been used in the past to treat skin infections such as athlete's foot; however, too much exposure to garlic can result in blistered skin. Allicin begins to degrade immediately after it is produced, so individuals should use it immediately after crushing it.
In addition to allicin, garlic's high sulfur content is said to tone the skin and give hair more luster. The sulfur reportedly works with B complex vitamins to support body metabolism and keep youthful elasticity in tissues, as well as treating and preventing dandruff. Garlic also is a source of the mineral selenium, which is said to fight cancer. Selenium works with vitamin E to boost antioxidant power and prevent or slow the signs of aging. According to the report, selenium is critical for the production of glutathione peroxidase, the body's primary antioxidant found in every cell.
The report cites research by scientists at the University of Kuwait who reported Allium sativa (garlic) extract to decrease serum glucose and blood pressure while increasing antioxidants. These scientists were investigating whether garlic could reduce free radical damage by measuring total serum antioxidants in diabetic and hypertensive rats before and after treatment with garlic. An analogue of vitamin E, glutathione and vitamin C were measured. After three weeks of treatment with garlic extract, the serum levels of antioxidants were significantly higher than the pretreatment levels in both diabetic and hypertensive rats. The increased serum antioxidant levels were paralleled by a decrease in serum glucose in the garlic-treated diabetic rats, and lowered systolic blood pressure in the garlic-treated hypertensive rats, showing that treatment with garlic can increase total antioxidant status. This study was reported in Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Similarly, a report from the Republic of Korea noted that diallyl disulfide (DADS), the most prevalent oil-soluble sulfur compound in garlic, inhibited cell proliferation in many cell lines. Scientists there examined DADS ability to kill cells in a process involving free radical production. They found that the famous tumor suppressor gene, p53, arrested the cell cycle when DADS treatment was present. Cancer cells died following 24 hr DADS treatment that activated the p53 gene. Researchers also found that DADS-induced cell death was prevented by treatment with a compound known to prevent p53-dependent cell death by reducing free radical levels in the mitochrondria. These results showed that mitochrondrial free radicals may serve as second messengers in DADS-induced cell death, which requires activation of p53. This study can be found in the January Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology.
DADS is not the most potent compound found in garlic but according to the report, it has an advantage because it is the less volatile of the compounds. DADS does not degrade as quickly and its health benefits survive cooking. Garlic must be chopped or crushed to produce the sulfides. If it is cooked whole, it loses most of its medicinal value and health benefits. DADS is a booster of the immune system and is reported to improve blood quality and circulation. It also has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels and through this action may help keep the heart and cardiovascular system healthy.
Finally, evidence in patent literature has supported personal care industry interest in garlic. Specifically, approaches to anticellulite are seen in patents and patent applications. One example includes Pierre Fabre's nurturing of garlic bulb extracts. This favorite Italian kicker will be interesting to watch as new uses are unveiled.