Canadian researchers have uncovered new facts which give scientific explanation to what our grandmothers were already convinced of: garlic is good for you.
A team from Queen’s University in Ontario has explained how allicin – a powerful antioxidant which gives garlic is its unique aroma – actually works. What they found is that it is not allicin itself, but a product of its decomposition called sulfenic acid that reacts with and traps harmful chemicals known as free radicals.
"While garlic has been used as an herbal medicine for centuries and there are many garlic supplements on the market, until now there has been no convincing explanation as to why it is beneficial," says Queen’s chemistry professor Derek Pratt whose team conducted the research.
He adds, "I think we have taken the first step in uncovering a fundamental chemical mechanism which may explain garlic’s medicinal benefits."
Interestingly enough, related vegetables such as onions and shallots are also rich in allicin, but they do not have similarly beneficial effects. The researchers suspect that this is due to a slower rate of allicin decomposition which results in lower levels of sulfenic acid.
Garlic has been used for centuries as a trusted herbal medicine, and is commonly believed to fight high cholesterol and prevent cancer.
The study was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Innovation.