Garlic: Bad for Your Breath, Good for Your Brain

Garlic is known to be a breath destroyer, but is it possible that what’s known as the stinking rose could help stave off dementia? In the quest to find a potential cure and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, a by-product of garlic called aged garlic extract was recently studied on mice and it showed some serious promise. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia and now the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, results from the deposit of proteins called amyloid-beta protein peptides that can cause inflammation and form plaque in the brain.

The available drugs today only treat the symptoms, so serious efforts are underway to search for a cure, or at least to stop the disease progression. Currently, treatment costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease are climbing and therefore, cheaper, natural food substances for treatment drugs are being investigated worldwide.  One of such substances being tested is garlic. When reviewing preliminary results of various animal and laboratory studies involving aged garlic extract and one of its key compounds, S-allyl-L-cysteine, garlic extract treatment showed protective effects against inflammatory process and chemical changes in the brain that occur in Alzheimer’s disease patients. In the study on mice, the four-month-long treatment with aged garlic extract decreased the number of plaques in their brains.

Where does this extract come from? Garlic has sulfur-containing compounds that can be unfavorable and undesirable. When garlic is soaked in ethanol-water mixture for 20 months, unfavorable compounds are destroyed and useful ones become soluble resulting in aged garlic extract, which it contains S-allyl-L-cysteine or SAC.

Thus far, studies conducted in the area of Alzheimer’s disease and potential benefits of treatments with natural food substances are still conflicting.  While more research is in dire need, researchers are hopeful that remedies including garlic and curcumin (turmeric) are potentially beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Like garlic, curcumin also has shown to help alleviate all types of inflammation, helping to fight various intestinal diseases or even slow down cancer growth.

So while further human studies need to be done to verify and expand on these results, it wouldn’t hurt you to add some fresh garlic to your spaghetti tonight or pop an aged garlic extract supplement pill. Just remember to buy some breath mints, too.

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