Food Fact: Garlic


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(Photo: Jonathunder/Wikipedia)

Garlic’s numerous beneficial cardiovascular effects are due to not only its sulfur compounds, but also to its vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and manganese.  Garlic is a very good source of vitamin C, the body’s primary antioxidant defender in all aqueous (water-soluble) areas, such as the bloodstream, where it protects LDL cholesterol from oxidation.

Antibacterial and Antiviral Benefits
From a medical history standpoint, the antibacterial and antiviral properties of garlic are perhaps its most legendary feature.  This allium vegetable and its constituents have been studied not only for their benefits in controlling infection by bacteria and viruses, but also infection from other microbes including yeasts/fungi and worms. (One particular disulfide in garlic, called ajoene, has been successfully used to help prevent infections with the yeast Candida albicans.)

Very recent research has shown the ability of crushed fresh garlic to help prevent infection by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in burn patients. Also of special interest has been the ability of garlic to help in the treatment of bacterial infections that are difficult to treat due to the presence of bacteria that have become resistant to prescription antibiotics.  However, most of the research on garlic as an antibiotic has involved fresh garlic extracts or powdered garlic products rather than fresh garlic in whole food form.

Overgrowth of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in the stomach—a key risk factor for stomach ulcer—has been another key area of interest for researchers wanting to explore garlic’s antibacterial benefits.  Results in this area, however, have been mixed and inconclusive. While garlic may not be able to alter the course of infection itself, there may still be health benefits from garlic in helping to regulate the body’s response to that infection.

Studies:
Ghalambor A and Pipelzadeh MH. Clinical study on the efficacy of orally administered crushed fresh garlic in controlling Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection in burn patients with varying burn degrees. Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology 2009; 2(1):7-13. 2009.

Galeone C, Tavani A, Pelucchi C, et al. Allium vegetable intake and risk of acute myocardial infarction in Italy. Eur J Nutr. 2009 Mar;48(2):120-3. 2009.

The World’s Healthiest Foods: Garlic

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