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Garlic Is Good for the Liver

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Find out why cooking with garlic is a logical step towards supporting your liver’s health.

We are always looking for foods to include into our diet to support liver health. An herb affectionately known as “the stinking rose,” garlic is filled with many therapeutic benefits – and the liver is one of its benefactors. Best known as a pungent food flavoring, there are a number of reasons to include garlic into a liver wellness diet.

A member of the lily or Allium family, garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds, including:

  • thiosulfinates – of which the best known compound is allicin
  • sulfoxides – among which the best known compound is alliin
  • dithiins – in which the most researched compound is ajoene

These compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristically pungent odor and they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects.

In addition, garlic contains many more healthful components:

  • Selenium – a mineral that increases the action of antioxidants – which assists the liver in detoxification.
  • Arginine – an amino acid important for relaxing the blood vessels, which eases blood pressure in the liver.
  • Vitamin B6 – helps lower homocysteine levels in the body, thus acting as an anti-inflammatory substance which inhibits inflammation in the liver.
  • Vitamin C – the body’s primary antioxidant defender protecting against cellular oxidation – a major contributor to liver cell damage.

When specifically concerned about supporting liver health, garlic may:

  • Protect Against Liver Cancer – As published in an October 2013 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Taiwanese researchers aimed to understand the modes of cell death mechanism induced by allicin, the major phytochemical of crushed garlic in human hepatoma cells. They found that allicin induced cell death in human liver cancer cells through either autophagy or apoptosis. The researchers believe that garlic might contain a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of liver cancer.
  • Reduce Fat Accumulation in the Liver – As published in a May 2013 edition of Nutrition Reviews, Australian researchers performed a comprehensive meta-analysis looking at the effect of garlic on total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides. Their findings suggest garlic to be effective in reducing total serum cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in individuals with elevated total cholesterol levels. Because high total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are associated with fatty liver disease, regular garlic consumption could prevent or even reduce a fatty liver.
  • Protect the Liver from Toxins – A healthy liver breaks down toxins, but an ailing liver is often unable to keep up with its toxin load. According to a 2009 study in the Internet Journal of Nutrition and Wellness, fresh garlic extract administered to mice that overdosed on acetaminophen reversed the oxidative stress causing liver toxicity. Fresh garlic contains high levels of antioxidants which are known to protect the liver from natural and environmental toxins.

According to the George Mateljan Foundation, the health benefits of garlic are increased by letting it sit after being chopped or crushed. Sitting before changing its temperature (through cooking) or its pH (through the addition of acidic food like lemon juice), will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to work. In addition:

  • In the absence of chopping or crushing, research has shown that just 60 seconds of immediate microwaving will cause garlic to lose some of its cancer-protective properties.
  • Immediate boiling of whole, intact garlic will also lower its healthful properties.
  • Immediate addition of a very low-acid ingredient like lemon juice will also reduce garlic’s health benefits.

Hepatology experts agree that anyone concerned with their liver’s health are served well by cooking with lots of garlic. Besides keeping vampires away, consuming several cloves of garlic a day may reduce your risk of liver cancer, fatty liver disease and liver damage from oxidation. If everyone knew that this tasty herb was so beneficial to our liver’s health, everyone would be adding extra garlic to their culinary creations.


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http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/09/09/foods-for-liver_n_3895085.html#slide=2889252, Foods for Liver: 12 Ways to Get a Clean and Healthy Organ, Terri Coles, Retrieved October 20, 2013, The HuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2013.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/346836-benefits-of-garlic-on-liver/, Are There Benefits of Garlic On Liver?, Dia Dahl, Retrieved October 20, 2013, Demand Media, Inc., 2013.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23590705, Effect of Garlic on serum lipids: an updated meta-analysis, Ried K, et al, Retrieved October 20, 2013, Nutrition Reviews, May 2013.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24059278, Allicin Induced Anti-Human Liver Cancer Cells through the p53 Gene Modulating Apoptosis and Autophagy, Chy YL, et al, Retrieved October 20, 2013, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, October 2013.

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-300-GARLIC.aspx?activeIngredientId=300&activeIngredientName=GARLIC, Garlic, Retrieved October 20, 2013, WebMD, LLC, 2013.

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60, Garlic, Retrieved October 20, 2013, The George Mateljan Foundation, 2013.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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