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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Smell of Garlic is the Key to Its Health Benefits

Written by Tena Moore

The reason garlic is so beneficial to your health may be its distinctive odor. For a long time scientists have puzzled over how garlic helps to promote good health, since it doesn’t contain any of the usual antioxidants credited with fighting disease.

The answer, they think, is allicin, a compound that makes garlic smell, well, garlicky, and also produces an acid that fights free-radical activity in the body.

Derek Pratt, a chemistry professor at Queen’s University in Kinston, Ontario, lead a study that examined exactly how allicin fights free radicals in cells.

In their experiments Pratt and his team discovered that when allicin decomposes it makes sulfenic acid, which quickly and effectively attacks free radicals and thus stops cellular damage. He said that the reaction of sulfenic acid to the radicals was “as fast as it can get,” and that “No one has ever seen compounds, natural or synthetic, react this quickly as antioxidants.”

The findings were published in January in the journal Angewandte Chemie. Pratt noted that although garlic has long been touted for its health benefits by herbalists and many people take garlic supplements, this study is the first to provide an explanation of how garlic actually works, even more effectively than flavanoid-rich green tea and grapes, to prevent free-radical damage in the body.

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