Date: October 16 1996 | Topic: Garlic and cancer prevention
A. Garlic, a member of the onion family, is thought to have originated in the deserts of Central Asia. It has been used throughout history to treat a host of ailments including the Plague in Europe and typhus and dysentery during World War I.
Epidemiological studies have found that, in areas of the world where people eat a lot of garlic and onions, there is decreased incidence of cancer. Compounds in garlic have antioxidant properties which may play a role in inhibiting cancer by protecting against cellular damage from free radicals.
Garlic contains many compounds including vitamins A and C, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur (including 75 different sulfur compounds), selenium and a number of amino acids. Cancer research has been conducted on only a few of these compounds as well as on whole garlic. The Iowa Women's Health Study found that, of all foods evaluated, garlic showed the strongest association with decreased risk for colon cancer. Sulfur-containing allicin (the most-studied component in garlic) and S-allyl-cysteine seem to block the action of cancer-causing substances and slow tumor development.
Scientists disagree on the effect cooking has on garlic and its individual compounds and their properties. Some are adversely affected by heat, while others may actually be enhanced. Processes which dry the herb to make it into powder or pill form also change its composition, as well as the concentration.
Knowing that a certain food may play a role in cancer (or any disease) is a long way from knowing which of the specific compounds within that food are beneficial. Discovering that is a lengthy process. At this time, we can't say that garlic itself, or compounds found in garlic, play a significant role in cancer prevention and treatment. Article Source