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 compound does not occur in garlic cloves, but is produced when garlic is finely chopped or crushed. The finer the chopping and the more intense the crushing, the more allicin is produced and the stronger is the medicinal effect. The compound has been used in the past to treating skin infections such as athlete's foot. Too much exposure to garlic can result in blistered skin. Allicin starts to degrade immediately after it is produced, so a person seeking to reap its full medicinal benefits should use it immediately after crushing it. Cooking increases the degradation of allicin, and microwaving completely destroys allicin and eliminates any health benefits. To gain the optimal in medicinal effects, garlic should be crushed and added to food immediately before serving.
The high sulfur content in garlic makes it able to tone up the skin and make hair more lustrous. Garlic helps make skin smooth and supple, and strengthens nails. The sulfur in garlic works with B complex vitamins to support body metabolism, helping to keep people looking trim. It helps keep youthful elasticity in tissues, and helps treat and prevent dandruff.
Garlic is a large source of the mineral selenium, which is said to fight cancer. Selenium works with vitamin E to boost antioxidant power and prevent or slow signs of aging and hardening of tissues through oxidation. Selenium is critical for the production of glutathione peroxidase, the body's primary antioxidant that is found in every cell. Males are especially sensitive to selenium levels. Almost half their body's supply concentrates in the testicles and portions of the seminal ducts adjacent to the prostate gland.
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, and their study was reported in Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. They measured 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, and measurement was verified with reliability and reproducibility coefficients.
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.
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 hour DADS treatment that activated the p53 gene. They 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.
Their 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. Diallyl disulfide is not the most potent compound found in garlic, but 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 needs to 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 improves blood quality and circulation. It has been shown in studies to lower LDL cholesterols levels, and through this action may help keep the heart and cardiovascular system healthy.