Eating Garlic Reduces Lung Cancer Risk by 44%
Researchers in China have discovered that eating raw or cooked garlic at least twice a week, can reduce the risk of developing lung cancer by 44%1. In an article to be published in January 2014, ZY Jin and colleagues report the results of a seven-year epidemiological study in which 1,424 lung cancer patients and 4,543 healthy controls were interviewed about diet and lifestyle. The dose-response pattern of the protective effect illustrates that fresh garlic may be chemo-protective against lung cancer.
Putting research into perspective
The results of any research study need to be interpreted within the context of the wider body of scientific research. These data are consistent with previously-conducted epidemiological studies that suggest a high intake of either raw or cooked garlic may be protective against several forms of cancer (stomach, colorectal, esophageal, lung, breast and bladder)2. The absence of a similar effect using garlic supplements is similarly reflected in the results of four cohort studies and one case-control report.
What is the active ingredient in garlic?
This is a lively area of research. For an effect this profound, it is possible that garlic is packed with more than one beneficial chemical. At least two candidate compounds have been implicated – selenium and organosulfur compounds.
What’s in it for us?
What benefits can we draw from all this? Well, extra helpings of garlic-laced spaghetti sauce and garlic bread are unlikely to protect you from the carcinogenic effects of your after-dinner cigarette so don’t get any ideas about that. Unfortunately if you don’t like the taste of raw garlic, the evidence gathered so far doesn’t support the use of garlic supplements for this purpose. Luckily, you have Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, seafood, meat, eggs, onions, mushrooms and grains are all good source of selenium.
The health benefits of garlic are nothing new. The Egyptians have recognized garlic as a health food since 1550 BC, 150 years before Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. This long history provides a compelling argument for us to up our intake of raw or cooked garlic.
There is a chain of restaurants in Europe called Garlic & Shots. Everything on the menu contains garlic, including ice cream, beer and 101 different flavoured vodkas. Diners are welcome to request extra garlic, but never less. How cool would it be if we could persuade our insurance companies to pay for prophylactic cancer treatment at one of these, or similar, establishments!
There is a lot more work to be done to fully investigate the possibility that garlic really does offer protection against at least some forms of cancer. Randomized controlled trials are essential. Until then, keep eating the pasta and chicken kiev and pass the breath mints, please.
1Jin ZY, et al, “Raw garlic consumption as a protective factor for lung cancer, a population-based case-control study in a Chinese population.” Cancer Prevention Research (Phila). 2014.
2Fleischauer AT, et al, “Garlic and Cancer: A Critical Review of the Epidemiological Literature.” The Journal of Nutrition. 2001.