Garlic Facts and History: The Truth About Vampires and Health Benefits

Garlic Facts and History: The Truth About Vampires and Health Benefits

Issue: How to turn allicin into a useful drug Study results have been inconclusive or subpar. Additionally, many of these studies have used garlic that is a very high dose, concentrated or given in a form of stabilized allicin. Another reason some researchers have stabilized allicin is that when garlic enters the body, the digestive tract must break it down and neutralize it before the liver takes over to carry away waste and help the bloodstream absorb nutrients. Therefore, “the chances of actually reaching a cell somewhere in the body are very small,” Block said. “That’s been the big problem: How do you take this compound allicin, with all these wonderful properties demonstrated in (human) cells, and make it into a useful drug?” Block said.

Allicin is also the compound to which most potential health benefits attributed to garlic have been credited. Some small studies have suggested that garlic may be helpful for slightly improving blood pressure, cholesterol, immune function, the prevention of certain cancers and oxidative stress — an imbalance that can lead to diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. At high doses, garlic’s compounds have reportedly helped protect organs from heavy metal toxicity. A four-week-long study of employees of a car battery plant found that garlic reduced blood lead levels by 19%. The role of allicin found in garlic

“There is a lot of folklore as to the beneficial health effects of garlic in the diet,” said Alan Slusarenko, a professor of plant physiology at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, via email. “However, we have no data from controlled clinical trials.” Some medieval Europeans believed that vampires — the fictional blood-drinkers that have come to dominate the horror genre — were created by a blood disease, so people carried garlic thinking it was a strong antibiotic that could kill the monsters. The blood disorder porphyria may have supported this belief, according to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Porphyria is a group of disorders characterized by a defective enzyme our bodies need to make heme, the deep-red, iron-containing compounds that help transport oxygen throughout the body. Complications of the disorder can make skin pale and shrink gums, which can make teeth look bigger. Garlic and sunlight can worsen the symptoms, so people with porphyria might avoid it — a habit some people attributed to vampirism. By drinking human blood, “vampires (or people with porphyria) might theoretically replenish their heme stores,” said a 2014 paper published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine.

And the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate dietary supplements, so “advertisers can say whatever they want,” Block said. Possible side effects Allicin is “destroyed” when cooked, Slusarenko said, “and off-the-shelf supplements generally have no or variable contents of allicin.”

Benefits of avocados: 4 ways they are good for you “To try to translate that into a medicine has proven very, very challenging, and has led a lot of companies — that are out to make money — to make false claims based on the activity of these compounds in cells,” he added. In other words, some companies have been “trying to convince people that just because they’re very active in all these experiments, it’s also active as a pill or as a supplement.”

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