No matter what's on the menu at Angela Brintlinger's house, there's one thing that's sure to be in the recipe, garlic... and lots of it..
Angela says " Last night I was making pad Thai and I put in a couple of cloves, three or four cloves of garlic, we'll always throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, we'll always throw in a couple of cloves into most of the things that we make."
Part of that is purely for the taste, but mostly it's for the medical benefits. Angela has used garlic for years to fight everything from infections to flu, and now a new study is adding to the notion that garlic can be a potential cancer fighter as well.
Earl Harrison is a scientist who helped conduct the study. He says that certain processes in our bodies that have the potential to cause cancer can leave signals of that process in the urine. So he and his team developed a urine test to check for two different markers, one shows how much garlic a person recently ate, the other shows the level of that potentially cancer causing process.
Dr. Earl Harrison says "Our results showed that those were inversely related to one another, that is to say that the more we had the marker for the garlic consumption the less we had the marker for the risk of cancer."
In this study patients were given pills, containing concentrated garlic. Doctors still aren't sure if that's the best way to get garlic's benefits, but they are confident that eating it as food is a much tastier way.
Dr. Harrison says "If you like garlic containing foods, go out and have as much as you want there is no indication that it's going to hurt you and it may well help you."
Scientists say if you take garlic pills, you should know that the quality of the supplements and the purity of the extracts can vary greatly. The best way to ensure getting enough garlic is to cook with fresh garlic. Although you may want to be aware of its most common side effect which of course is odor.
Garlic and cancer prevention
While some research on garlic and its organic allyl sulfur components as effective inhibitors of the cancer process are promising, it is very hard to determine the exact role a particular food may have against cancer. However, a few studies show some promise regarding prostate and stomach cancers, although much more research is needed.
Available information regarding garlic use and cancer prevention either comes from observational studies comparing cancer incidence in populations who consume or do not consume garlic (epidemiologic studies), animal models, or laboratory experimentation. These findings have not yet been verified by clinical trials in humans. Well-designed dietary studies in humans using predetermined amounts of garlic (intervention studies) are needed to determine potentially effective intakes. Studies directly comparing various garlic preparations are also needed.
A balanced diet that includes 5 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables along with foods from a variety of other plant sources such as nuts, seeds, whole grain cereals, and beans is likely to be more effective than eating one particular food in large amounts.
Dietitian, Memorial Hospital ....
In a recent study published in the journal Analytical Biochemistry, researchers were looking at the ability of garlic to reduce cancer risk. The study indicated that garlic may play some role in inhibiting formation of nitrogen-based toxic substances, which have been linked to cancer. While this research on garlic is promising, there are still questions remaining about the exact role garlic plays as a nutritional intervention. There is not enough evidence at this time to support eating large amounts of garlic or taking garlic supplements for cancer prevention given that this was a small pilot study.
Jill Mingle, MS, RD
Erlanger Health System