The Power Of Aged Garlic

Eating cloves of garlic has well-known health benefits, but the practice doesn't exactly promote fresh breath or digestive ease. How, then, do you get garlic's antioxidant benefits, including cancer and heart-disease prevention as well as cholesterol reduction, without the drawbacks? Simple: Odor-free supplements are just as effective as eating what some call the "stinking rose."

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that aged garlic extract (AGE), an odorless and concentrated form of the bulb, reduced cholesterol levels in the male subjects they tested. Every day the men took either nine capsules containing 800 mg of AGE or placebo for five months. At the end of the study, the men taking AGE showed a 7 percent reduction in their total cholesterol, and their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels dropped by 10 percent. The placebo group showed no change (Journal of Nutrition, 2001, vol. 131).

AGE also appears to be an effective antioxidant, protecting against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, all generated by free radical damage. Free radical molecules form in the body in reaction to chemicals and pollutants. In a recent study conducted at Liverpool John Moores University in England, researchers compared a group of adult smokers, who are more prone to developing free radicals, to a group of adult nonsmokers. Both groups took five ml of AGE daily. After two weeks, lipoprotein lipids, evident when high levels of free radical damage exist, decreased by 37 percent in nonsmokers and 48 percent in smokers. Two weeks after the subjects stopped supplementation, however, the measured lipoprotein lipids returned to pretest levels, indicating that AGE, taken regularly, could act as an inhibitor of free radical damage and thus protect against disease (Journal of Nutrition, 2001, vol. 132).

And if that's not enough good news about AGE, researchers performing another recent study at Loma Linda University in California found that aged garlic extract holds promise for reversing age-related immune, memory, and learning deficiencies. However, this effect has not yet been tested on human subjects (Growth Hormone and IGF Research, 2002, vol. 12, no. 1).

Although there's more research to be done, these results affirm that aged garlic, though not the most powerful flavor and aroma for pasta, is a powerful antioxidant, cancer fighter, and fountain of youth.

—K.M.