Garlic has long been used to treat human diseases. It is also a popular spice for cooking.
Sulfur Compounds In Garlic
Unfortunately, researchers have yet to identify exactly how garlic influences human health. Researchers cited the different compounds that garlic produces behind its complex biology.
The unique flavor of garlic comes from sulfur compounds. Garlic absorbs sulfate from the soil, which is incorporated into amino acids and sulfur storage molecules that can be broken into about 50 different compounds when the spice is prepared and eaten.
Research suggests that these compounds are important in producing the health effects associated with garlic.
"Recent studies have indicated that some of these sulfur compounds, such as diallyl trisulfide (DATS), alter the levels of gaseous signalling molecules including nitric oxide (NO), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and perhaps carbon monoxide (CO) in mammalian tissues," Peter Rose, from the University of Nottingham, and colleagues wrote the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences on April 26.
The researchers added that these gases have important roles in cellular processes linked to inflammation, cardiovascular system, and neurological function. Gaseous signaling molecules also have important roles in cell communications and in maintaining homeostasis. Altered levels of these molecules have likewise been observed in many diseases.
Different Preparations Yield Different Sulfur Compounds
Nonetheless, the researchers said that it is not very clear how the beneficial compounds from garlic produce health effects. One reason is the manner of preparing the garlic affects the kind of sulfur compounds that are eventually consumed.
The researchers said that chopping raw garlic, pressing it for oil, and fermenting it in alcohol would yield different sulfur compounds. Each of these various ways of preparing the spice could have different effects within the mammalian system.
"We don't really understand how these compounds are metabolized in humans and it's very difficult to identify common mechanisms of action for these molecules," said Rose.
The researchers nonetheless said that there is neither correct nor wrong way to prepare garlic.
Other Health Benefits Of Garlic
Studies have shown that consumption of garlic may lower risk for lung cancer, hip osteoarthritis, prostate cancer. alcohol-induced liver injury, and preterm delivery. Eating garlic is also linked to the fewer occurrence of a common cold.
Despite the numerous health benefits associated with garlic, the researchers reminded that the spice should not be considered as some kind of magic bullet.