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Science on Purpose: Eat garlic, kill cancer

What do vampires and cancer have in common? Both can be defeated by garlic.

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By Taylor Breckles (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: February 5, 2014

Garlic has been found to be a useful vegetable in the fight against brain cancer. (Image:  Richard North/ flickr)

Garlic has been found to be a useful vegetable in the fight against brain cancer. (Image: Richard North/ flickr)

What do vampires and cancer have in common? Both can be defeated by garlic.

Garlic is one of the world’s most potent foods and is commonly associated with a long lifespan, but it has also been a great aid to scientists conducting lab work.

Cancer cells have high metabolism and require a lot of energy to grow, and garlic can provide them with said energy. Through an oxygen reactant compound, garlic essentially suffocates cancer cells by overloading them with energy.

A study at Washington State University demonstrated that garlic is 100 times more effective than two common antibiotics in defeating disease-causing bacteria, proving those “Not All Bugs Need Drugs” commercials may have a point.

“This research highlights the great promise of plant-originated compound as natural medicine for controlling the malignant growth of human brain tumour cells,” says Swapan Ray, neuroscience and neurology associate professor, in Cancer, the American Cancer Society’s journal.

Glioblastoma, for example, is the most common, as well as the most aggressive, variety of brain cancer. It accounts for 52 per cent of all functional-tissue brain tumour cases as well as 20 per cent of all intracranial tumours. The typical treatment for glioblastoma is chemotherapy and radiation, which are known to kill brain cells and offer an average survival rate of 15 months.

However, for the first time, organo-sulfur compounds — which are found in garlic — have been recognized as effective against glioblastoma. This discovery will allow for non-invasive and less harmful cancer treatment.

“Our basic studies will eventually be translated to clinics for patient care. We may have to wait several years before its application to humans, but the significance of this discovery is enormous,” says Naren Banik, neuroscience and neurology professor in Cancer. “The benefits from this research to brain cancer patients will bring great satisfaction to researchers and clinicians who are trying to find a successful treatment for this devastating cancer.”

In addition to garlic-derived compounds being healthier for the body, these organo-sulfur compounds are also small and would most likely not require complex delivery methods in order to treat patients.

The National Cancer Institute’s hypothesis is that “[preventative] effects from garlic may arise from its anti-bacterial properties, or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances, halt the activation of cancer-causing substances, enhance DNA repair, reduce cell proliferation, or induce cell death.”

In order to take advantage of these cancer-killing benefits at home, there are a few steps involved if one wants to gain the full potential of garlic healing. As Ray recommends, peeling and cutting fresh garlic and letting it rest for 15 minutes before eating it, or cooking with it, is preferred as it allows time for the release of the enzyme alliinase. This is the enzyme that produces anti-cancer compounds, so letting garlic rest is a small price to pay in exchange for the benefits.

That said, gorging on garlic can cause diarrhea, allergies, and internal bleeding, so choose your meals carefully.

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