Garlic Does More Than Protect You From Vampires

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on November 26, 2018 · 0 comments

People have used garlic for thousands of years to treat disease or worn as an amulet around the neck to ward off vampires. Experts agree, garlic is a healthy food that may reduce the risk for certain cancers, heart disease and even type 2 diabetes. But, exactly why garlic is so beneficial has always remained a mystery. Researchers in the UK are trying to understand how garlic and other plants in the allium family – onions, shallots, leeks, and chives – help to protect the body from diseases.

Garlic’s flavor comes from sulfur compounds. The plant absorbs sulfate from the ground and incorporates it into sulfur-containing molecules in the garlic. These molecules offer an ecological protection to the plant in the wild and may provide the same protection to the human body after eating. What makes the issue so complex is how we prepare garlic affects which sulfur compounds we end up eating. Chopping fresh garlic, fermenting garlic, or pressing it for oil all yield different sulfur compounds. This quirk of garlic chemistry explains why studies on people who eat garlic have had mixed results.

Peter Rose, a biochemist and one of the researchers exploring garlic’s benefits believes that garlic is not a magic bullet or cure-all, but simply a plant species that is strongly associated with reducing disease risk.

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