Garlic is a food staple that’s widely used in cooking various recipes. But aside from its culinary use, garlic also has health benefits, and one of which is its potential to prevent cancer.
Garlic is a vegetable that belongs to the allium family along with onions, scallions, leeks, and chives.
It contains arginine, oligosaccharides, flavonoids, and selenium, which are all beneficial to health. Meanwhile, the allium family contains many substances including quercetin, allixin, and organosulfur compounds that are being examined to determine if they have any potential to prevent cancer.
Garlic: The Potential Link to Preventing Cancer
Possibly, garlic may help prevent cancer because of its antibacterial properties and its ability to block substances that cause cancer, help with DNA repair, and cut down cell proliferation. Meanwhile, the sulfur content of garlic can help boost the immune system to fight cancer and reduce tumor growth.
Population studies were conducted to determine the link between the consumption of garlic and reducing cancer risks. The studies found that higher intakes of garlic may help reduce the risk of intestinal cancer, cancer of the distal colon, esophageal and stomach cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer. These population studies were conducted in different parts of the globe such as France, US, China, and Europe.
Meanwhile, clinical trials were also conducted to investigate the cancer-preventing properties of garlic, and results vary greatly. In one trial, the intake of allitridum and selenium, which are properties present in garlic, reduced the risk of stomach cancer by 52% among individuals who are at high-risk for the disease. However, another trial conducted on individuals with precancerous stomach lesions yielded different results, and revealed that garlic supplements did not reduce gastric cancer risk and the number of existing lesions.
Is Garlic Effective for Cancer?
While garlic has potential anti-cancer properties, there’s still no strong evidence pointing to it as a means to prevent cancer nor a cure for the disease.
More data is needed to determine the amount of garlic needed to reduce a person’s risk for cancer. More so, not all garlic preparations are the same and its effectiveness may vary with time and the way it was processed or handled.
Even if there’s still no strong link that points to garlic as a cancer prevention tool or cure, that’s not to say that you should exclude it from your diet. Garlic is still a healthy food staple that not only adds flavor to your dishes, but also provides other health benefits such as boosting the immune system and reducing blood pressure.
Safety Precautions when Using Garlic
Garlic is generally safe to use, but too much can cause side effects such as strong breath and body odor. When fresh bulbs are ingested on an empty stomach, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may occur. Meanwhile, chemical burns and bronchial asthma can happen when garlic is applied to the skin. Garlic can also interfere with certain drugs and medication.
If you want to determine whether garlic can help lessen your risk for cancer, consult with your doctor. Even if there’s no strong evidence of its cancer-fighting properties, including garlic in your diet is generally a good thing because it’s packed with nutrients that can be beneficial to your health.