Garlic: An immunity-boosting superstar

October 6, 2007 - 0:0

For thousands of years, people all over the world have hailed garlic as an elixir of health. Its cloves are said to help treat the common cold. Despite its notorious odor, this veggie is the bulb of a plant in the sweet-smelling lily family. Ancient writings show that garlic was used as an aphrodisiac in India and as currency in Egypt.

Today, at just 4 calories per clove, it’s a low-cal immunity-boosting superstar. One clove contains 5 mg of calcium, 12 mg of potassium, and more than 100 sulfuric compounds -- powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection (it was used to prevent gangrene in both world wars). Raw garlic, not cooked or dried, is most beneficial for health, since heat and water inactivate sulfur enzymes, which can diminish garlic’s antibiotic effects. In clinical trials, the toxin-fighting staple seems to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and kill parasites in the body.
Sulfuric compounds are also in brussels sprouts, cabbage, chives, kale, leeks, onions, and shallots.
A single clove may be too little, 20 too much, but a new study suggests about a dozen cloves of garlic per day may be just right for lowering cholesterol.
In their study, researchers fed laboratory rats various doses of raw garlic, ranging from 500 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams per day per kilogram of the rat's body weight, along with a cholesterol-raising diet.
The research team included Shela Gorinstein, PhD, from the department of medicinal chemistry and natural products at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
After four weeks, the results showed that only the rats that got the 500-milligram daily dose of garlic were resistant to the cholesterol-raising effects of their diet. The 500-milligram dose of garlic was also associated with an increase in the time it would take for blood to clot. Heart attacks and strokes are primarily due to blood clots that block blood flow supply to the heart and brain.