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Allicin (diallyl disulphide oxide), a sulfur-containing compound derived from garlic, is primarily responsible for the pharmacology effects, as well as the pungent odor. When garlic is crushed or chopped, the enzyme in garlic called alliinase converts alliin, a sulfur-containing compound in garlic, into allicin. When buying a garlic supplement, it is important to know how much allicin is released. Enteric-coated tablets will release allicin in the intestines, preventing bad breath.
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Allicin has antioxidant properties, which can help prevent free radical damage. Free radicals have been linked to many age-related diseases such as heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's disease and macular degeneration, and may also speed up the aging process. Allicin also has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic properties.
According to one study involving about 150 people, those who took a garlic supplement had significantly fewer colds than those who took a placebo during "cold season". In addition, cold symptoms did not last as long in those who took garlic compared to those who took the placebo.
Candidiasis, an overgrowth of yeast (fungus) in the gastrointestinal tract, is a condition commonly caused by prolonged antibiotic use. Garlic has been shown to inhibit Candida albicans (the yeast) in both in vitro and animal studies. In fact, it was shown to be more potent than nystatin and other reputed antifungal agents.
Cholesterol, Triglycerides and High Blood Pressure
Daily doses of a fresh garlic preparation (with a total allicin potential of 4,000 mcg) over a one to three month period were found to decrease total blood cholesterol by 10 to 12 percent, decrease LDL "bad" cholesterol levels by 15 percent, increase HDL "good" cholesterol levels by 10 percent and decrease triglyceride levels by 15 percent. Also, a drop in blood pressure was noted; about 11 mmHg in the systolic reading and 5.0 mmHg in the diastolic reading.
Experimental and clinical evidence suggests that allicin competes with insulin, also a disulphide, for insulin-inactivating sites in the liver, thus increasing free insulin and lowering glucose levels.
According to laboratory studies, garlic may have anti-cancer activity. Studies following groups of people over a period of time suggest that those who consumed more garlic were less likely to develop certain cancer types, particularly stomach and colon cancers. Garlic may also improve immune function in those with cancer. In one study involving 50 people with inoperable pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancer, aged garlic extract improved immune activity after six months. In addition, it is suggested that aged garlic supplementation may decrease side effects related to chemotherapy, such as fatigue and lack of appetite.
Although there are benefits of garlic supplements, they are not suitable for everyone. If you have a medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding or are taking medications, consult your health care provider before taking.
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Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. "Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine" Prima Publishing 1998
University of Maryland Medical Center: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/garlic-000245.htm
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