By Joe Leech
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."
Those are famous words from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, often called the father of western medicine. He actually used to prescribe garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions. Well, modern science has recently confirmed many of these beneficial health effects.
Here are 11 health benefits of garlic that are supported by human research studies.
1. Garlic Contains a Compound Called Allicin, Which Has Potent Medicinal Properties
Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks.
It grows in many parts of the world and is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste. However, throughout ancient history, the main use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties. Its use was well documented by all the major civilizations, including the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and the Chinese.
The entire “head" is called a garlic bulb, while each segment is called a clove. There are about 10-20 cloves in a single bulb, give or take. We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds formed when a garlic clove is chopped, crushed or chewed.
This compound is known as allicin, and is also responsible for the distinct garlic smell. Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and travels all over the body, where it exerts its potent biological effects (which we'll get to in a bit).
Bottom Line: Garlic is a plant in the onion family, grown for its cooking properties and health effects. It is high in a sulfur compound called allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits.
2. Garlic Is Highly Nutritious, But Has Very Few Calories
Calorie for calorie, garlic is incredibly nutritious.
A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic contains:
- Manganese: 23 percent of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 17 percent of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 15 percent of the RDA.
- Selenium: 6 percent of the RDA.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Decent amounts of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin B1.
Garlic also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need.
This is coming with 42 calories, with 1.8 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.
Bottom Line: Garlic is low in calories and very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and manganese. It also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients.
3. Garlic Can Combat Sickness, Including the Common Cold
Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system.
One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63 percent compared with placebo. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70 percent, from five days in placebo to just 1.5 days in the garlic group.
Another study found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61 percent.
If you often get colds, then adding garlic to your diet could be incredibly helpful.
Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like the flu and common cold.
4. The Active Compounds in Garlic Can Reduce Blood Pressure
Cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes are the world's biggest killers. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most important drivers of these diseases.
Supplement doses must be fairly high to have these desired effects. The amount of allicin needed is equivalent to about four cloves of garlic per day.
Bottom Line: High doses of garlic appear to improve blood pressure of those with known high blood pressure (hypertension). In some instances, supplementation can be as effective as regular medications.
5. Garlic Improves Cholesterol Levels, Which May Lower The Risk of Heart Disease
Bottom Line: Garlic supplementation seems to reduce total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those who have high cholesterol. HDL cholesterol and triglycerides do not seem to be affected.
6. Garlic Contains Antioxidants That May Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to the aging process. Garlic contains antioxidants that support the body's protective mechanisms against oxidative damage.
High doses of garlic supplementation have been shown to increase antioxidant enzymes in humans, as well as significantly reduce oxidative stress in those with high blood pressure. The combined effects on reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as the antioxidant properties, may help prevent common brain diseases like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Bottom Line: Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and aging. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
7. Garlic May Help You Live Longer
Effects on longevity are basically impossible to prove in humans. But given the beneficial effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, it makes sense that garlic could help you live longer.
The fact that it can fight infectious disease is also an important factor, because these are common causes of death, especially in the elderly or people with dysfunctional immune systems.
Bottom Line: Garlic has known beneficial effects on common causes of chronic disease, so it makes perfect sense that it could help you live longer.
8. Athletic Performance Can be Improved With Garlic Supplementation
Garlic was one of the earliest “performance enhancing" substances. It was traditionally used in ancient cultures to reduce fatigue and enhance the work capacity of labourers. Most notably, it was administered to Olympic athletes in ancient Greece.
Rodent studies have shown that garlic helps with exercise performance, but very few human studies have been done.
Subjects with heart disease who took garlic oil for six weeks had a reduction in peak heart rate of 12 percent and improved their exercise capacity. However, a study on nine competitive cyclists found no performance benefits.
Other studies suggest that exercise-induced fatigue may be reduced with garlic.
Bottom Line: Garlic can improve physical performance in lab animals and people with heart disease. Benefits in healthy people are not yet conclusive.
9. Eating Garlic Can Help Detoxify Heavy Metals in the Body
At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.
A four week study in employees of a car battery plant (excessive exposure to lead) found that garlic reduced lead levels in the blood by 19 percent. It also reduced many clinical signs of toxicity, including headaches and blood pressure.
Three doses of garlic each day even outperformed the drug D-penicillamine in symptom reduction.
Bottom Line: Garlic was shown to significantly reduce lead toxicity and related symptoms in one study.
10. Garlic May Improve Bone Health
One study in menopausal women found that a daily dose of dry garlic extract (equal to 2 grams of raw garlic) significantly decreased a marker of estrogen deficiency. This suggests that this garlic may have beneficial effects on bone health in women.
Foods like garlic and onions have also been shown to have beneficial effects on osteoarthritis.
Bottom Line: Garlic appears to have some benefits for bone health by increasing estrogen levels in females, but more human studies are needed.
11. Garlic Is Easy to Include In Your Diet and Tastes Absolutely Delicious
The last one is not a health benefit, but still important.
It is the fact that it is very easy (and delicious) to include garlic in your current diet. It complements most savory dishes, particularly soups and sauces. The strong taste of garlic can also add a punch to otherwise bland recipes.
Garlic comes in several forms, from whole cloves and smooth pastes to powders and supplements like garlic extract and garlic oil.
The minimum effective dose for therapeutic effects is one clove eaten with meals, two or three times a day. However, keep in mind that there are some downsides to garlic, such as bad breath. There are also some people who are allergic to it.
If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinning medications, then talk to your doctor before increasing your garlic consumption.
The active compound allicin only forms when garlic is crushed or cleaved when it is raw. If you cook it before crushing it, then it won't have the same health effects. Therefore, the best way to consume garlic is raw, or to crush and cut it and leave it out for a while before you add it to your recipes.
For thousands of years, garlic was believed to have medicinal properties. We now have the science to confirm it.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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