The All-Around Health Benefits of Aged Garlic Extract
By Carmia Borek, Ph.D.
Garlic ranks highly among health protecting foods, largely due to its antioxidant sulfur compounds. Fresh garlic, however, is not for everyone; it can cause indigestion and its odor is a possible social deterrent. But, the health benefits of garlic do not depend on freshness or pungency. Scientific studies show that aged garlic extract (AGE), which is odorless and richer in antioxidants than fresh or other forms of garlic preparations, is more effective in boosting immunity and protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer, aging, and drug toxicity.
AGED GARLIC EXTRACT
AGE is produced by extracting and aging organic, fresh garlic at room temperature for 20 months. By combining this extraction/aging process, the antioxidant levels in the extract becomes higher than those in fresh garlic. The process also converts garlic's more unstable substances that are generally not bioavailable to the body, such as its odor-generating compound oxidant allicin, to more stable, bioavailable, and health promoting substances.
Garlic aged in this way contains stable water-soluble sulfur substances, including S-allyl mercaptocysteine (SAMC) and S-allyl cysteine (SAC), which are powerful antioxidants and have high bioavailability with 98 percent absorption into the blood. Also present are some oil-soluble sulfur compounds, flavonoids, a phenol allixin, and other nutrients, including selenium. However, it's the water-soluble sulfur compounds that are largely responsible for the health benefits of AGE.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS), which include free radicals, are toxic byproducts of a normal metabolism. ROS increase during inflammation, exercise, and exposure to environmental pollutants, radiation, and sunlight. ROS damage DNA, lipids, and proteins, which leads to aging and disease. AGE's antioxidant activity enhances the body's ability to make glutathione, providing powerful protection against ROS damage.
The risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia increases with high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, platelet stickiness (promotes aggregation and clotting), and high homocysteine (the possible result of a folate deficiency). Clinical studies show that aged garlic and its major compound SAC reduce those risks. Taken at a dosage of 2.4 gm to 4.8 gm per day for six months, AGE lowered total cholesterol by 5 to 7 percent; reduced LDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure; prevented platelet aggregation; and increased HDL (good) cholesterol. SACs act similarly to statin drugs and can work synergistically with them to reduce cholesterol. With a folate deficiency, aged garlic lowers homocysteine, which helps prevent the serious consequences of this toxic amino acid.
In a recent breakthrough at the University of California (LA), cardiologists reported that AGE cut risk factors for heart attack by 50 percent.
The placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial showed that AGE given to cardiac patients, at 1,200 mg per day for a year, reduced coronary artery plaque build-up by more than 50 percent and increased HDL compared to the placebo. AGE lowered blood homocysteine, while patients on the placebo showed an increase.
These results add to a growing body of data showing an AGE supplement lowers cardiovascular disease risk factors, including anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory effects, stimulation of blood circulation, and the reduction of LDL, triglycerides and blood pressure.
AGE boosts immunity more effectively than fresh garlic by enhancing immune cell numbers and activity, improving specific immune actions in AIDS patients, and increasing the activity of natural killer (NK) cells that destroy invading organisms and cancer cells.
In a three week clinical study, subjects ingesting 1,800 mg of aged garlic increased NK cell activity by 155.5 percent, while those receiving 35 grams of fresh garlic per day (the equivalent of 10 cloves) had a 139.9 percent increase, indicating superior immune enhancing benefits. A study with AIDS patients showed that NK cells depleted by AIDS, rose to normal levels after six weeks of supplementation with the aged garlic.
Aged garlic is anti-fungal, preventing the growth of Candida albicans, the cause of infections in HIV-positive patients and in sexually transmitted conditions. AGE also kills Helicobacter pylori (H-pylori), the bacteria linked to stomach ulcers and cancer, which is resistant to antibiotic treatment in 84 percent of infected individuals.
Cancer is caused by damage (or mutations) in DNA that accumulates over time; ROS injury and chemical carcinogen binding are major causes of DNA damage. Garlic has potent anti-cancer effects, reducing the risk of human stomach, colon, and prostate cancer. In pre-clinical studies, AGE prevented cancers of the mammary glands, bladder, colon, stomach, liver, lung, and esophagus. The anti-cancer effects include: eliminating toxic ROS, increasing glutathione, preventing carcinogens from binding to DNA, and increasing carcinogen disposal.
The water-soluble SAMC, which is unique to AGE due to the aging process, may also help in cancer therapy. SAMC and SAC stop human prostate cancer cell growth by 80 percent as it lowers testosterone levels needed for their growth and reduces PSA, the prostate cancer marker. SAMC prevents the growth of breast cancer cells and inhibits colon cancer cell growth by 71 percent, inducing cell suicide (apoptosis).
PREVENTING DRUG TOXICITY
The pain killer acetaminophen (Tylenol) produces ROS. If taken in excess, acetaminophen depletes the liver of detoxifying glutathione and may lead to liver failure and death. Antioxidant rich aged garlic prevents acetaminophen toxicity by scavenging ROS, increasing glutathione, and acting as an antidote in cases of overdose. Volunteers ingesting 10 ml per day of AGE for three months, then given one gram of acetaminophen before and after the AGE course, were protected against acetaminophen toxicity.
Aged garlic may also help in cancer treatment by protecting against side effects of ROS-producing anti-cancer drugs. AGE prevents liver toxicity from methotrexate and fluorouracil and protects heart cells against doxorubicin toxicity.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.