Garlic, the odorous bulb that's probably in your kitchen right now, has been important in both food and medicine dating back to ancient Egypt, but its most important role may be in fighting one of modern man's most dreaded diseases — cancer. Recent research has found that compounds in garlic can cut cancer risks by as much as two-thirds.
According to the National Cancer Institute, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, several studies have shown that garlic cut the risk of several forms of cancer by 50 percent or more. And garlic also helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, and it in addition generally boosts the immune system.
Add generous amounts of garlic to your home-cooked dishes — or take garlic supplements — to fight the following ailments:
• Cancer. Recent research has found garlic contains more than 30 organosulphur compounds, many with exciting anti-cancer properties. One is an organosulphur compound called diallyl trisulfide (DATS), which fights cancer by preventing, killing, or blocking the growth and spread of cancerous cells. Some studies have suggested that garlic inhibits the development and progression of prostate, breast, colon, stomach, bladder, esophageal, and skin cancers in test tubes and in animals. One study conducted at the University of North Carolina found that people who eat garlic cut their risk of colorectal cancer by two-thirds.
According to The National Cancer Institute, garlic can lower the risk of pancreatic cancer by 54 percent, prostate cancer by 50 percent, colon cancer by 50 percent, and stomach cancer by 52 percent. Some studies show even greater benefits: One study conducted at the University of North Carolina found that people who eat garlic cut their risk of colorectal cancer by two-thirds.
Garlic can even help deter some of the deadliest cancers. Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that sulfur compounds in garlic are effective against glioblastoma, a fatal type of brain tumor.
• Low Testosterone. Japanese studies found that garlic boosts testosterone when combined with a high-protein diet for a month. The chemical diallyl disulfide stimulates the body to release a hormone that spurs the production of testosterone.
• Diabetes. Garlic is used as a traditional treatment in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to treat diabetes. Both animal and human studies conducted in Japan, India, and Saudi Arabia show that garlic regulates and lowers blood sugar. The Indian study found the allicin in garlic combines with the B vitamin thiamine and stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin.
• Heart Disease. Garlic tackles both cholesterol and blood pressure to lower the risk of heart disease. Several studies have found that garlic lowers blood levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol — the "bad" forms — as much as 20 percent. In one large study, those who took 800 milligrams of powdered garlic daily for four months lowered their cholesterol by 12 percent and their triglycerides by 17 percent, while the placebo group experienced little change.
Several studies using garlic supplements have shown a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading), and three showed a reduction in systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading). A chemical in garlic called hydrogen sulfide makes smooth muscles relax, thus helping to control blood pressure.
Garlic appears to prevent the buildup of plaque and prevent blood clots by thinning the blood, thus lowering the risk of strokes and thromboses. A study at India's Tagore Medical College found that patients who took garlic oil daily for 10 months were 83 percent less likely to form dangerous blood clots.
• Common Cold. A British study found that taking a garlic supplement each day reduced the risk of catching a cold by more than half when compared to people who took a placebo. In addition, those who caught colds recovered more quickly, and their chances of an infection following the cold were significantly reduced.
Experts recommend eating two to four cloves of fresh garlic daily or taking a total of 1,200 milligrams of freeze-dried garlic divided into three doses. When cooking, maximize its health benefits by mincing or crushing it and then giving it time to sit before cooking. The process allows two of garlic's chemicals — alliin and alliinase — to combine and create the powerful compound allicin.
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