As the levels of heart disease and cancer increase in Western society, a new European-funded study is now underway to explore the impact on atherosclerosis and colorectal cancer of bio-active sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic.
Mankind has long believed in the potential benefits that garlic can provide to the human body and garlic is well known for its alleged therapeutic role in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease - the leading causes of death in the EU. Increasing garlic consumption and increasing the content of the bio-active sulphur-containing components in garlic may, scientists suggest, have the potential to prevent these diseases.
Clinical trials suggest that garlic significantly reduces serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels - it reduces blood pressure and increases fibrinolytic activity (i.e. it affects blood clotting). Epidemiological and animal studies have also suggested that garlic may possess 'anti-tumour' potential. However, despite these reputed therapeutic effects, scientific studies of the mechanisms, with well-defined garlic preparations and compounds, are believed to be lacking.
The new European-funded project, based at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and led by Dr Chris Kik, has two primary scientific objectives. Firstly, to understand and improve the production of bio-active garlic compounds by sophisticated plant breeding techniques, and secondly, to improve understanding of the role of garlic in the diet and as a therapeutic agent in promoting and sustaining health, in particular its potential in preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease processes like atherosclerosis.
The project is specifically aiming to identify the mechanisms by which garlic interferes with the inflammatory processes of atherosclerosis and the development of cancer in cells, animals and humans. Scientists hope that the project will also provide an insight into the synthesis of beneficial garlic constituents and their mechanisms of action.
Further details about project QLK1-1999-00498 (G&H) can be obtained from the website.