Great News: Organosulfur Compounds In Garlic Are Possible Cancer-Preventive Agents

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Organosulfur Compounds In Garlic Are Possible Cancer-Preventive Agents
Great News: Organosulfur Compounds In Garlic Are Possible Cancer-Preventive Agents Graphic ©
Garlic Photo: Pixabay (PD)

Garlic is more than just a kitchen staple for adding flavor to food. Recent studies have shown how garlic is packed with powerful antioxidants that can even help fight cancer. With cancer being one of the leading causes of death globally, millions of people are affected by the socioeconomic burden of this disease. [1] More often than not, medical treatments such as chemotherapy can only do so much to manage cancer. But with newer studies focusing on prevention, garlic may be an easy and effective way to reduce your cancer risk.

Getting To Know Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a flowering plant whose pungent bulbs are used all over the world in various cuisines. Historically, garlic has also been linked to various health benefits: Chinese and Indian traditional medicine have used garlic to help with conditions that affect respiration and digestion, as well as leprosy and parasitic infections. The ancient Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sina even recommends garlic for treating arthritis, toothaches, cough, constipation and animal bites. [2]

One of the earliest published scientific studies on garlic and cancer prevention was in 1990 by Lau, et. al.. They reported that garlic intake was associated with a reduced mortality rate for gastric cancer in China. [3] The researchers found that garlic was able to inhibit tumor growth, as well as restricting chemical carcinogens that promote carcinogenesis in the body. The same results were seen in the following studies as well.

Organosulfurcompounds In Garlic

In 2010, Omar and Al-Wabel published a study that reported garlic’s anti-cancer properties could be due to their organosulfur compounds. [4] There are two main classes of organosulfur compounds in garlic: L-cysteine sulfoxides and γ-glutamyl-L-cysteine peptides. Chopping or crushing garlic releases an enzyme called alliinase which forms allicin, which then breaks down into the organosulfur compounds.

Studies have shown how allicin could be a highly bioavailable antioxidant because of its ability to permeate the cell membrane, specifically γ-glutamyl-L-cysteine peptides which are water-soluble. [5] Omar and Al-Wabel concluded that garlic’s anti-cancer activity was linked to more than one organosulfur compound and worked primarily through detoxification, mutagenesis inhibition and prevention of DNA damage in carcinogenesis. [4]

Garlic And Prostate Cancer

Did you know that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men? [6] Aged garlic in particular was found to reduce the risk for prostate cancer, inhibiting tumor growth in the prostate by reducing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. [7][8] In 2007, a study reported how garlic-derived S-allylmercaptocysteine was used in treating androgen-independent prostate cancer and was able to reduce metastases in the lungs and adrenal glands by as much as 85.5%. [9]

Garlic And Breast Cancer

According to the WHO, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. [10] Because of these alarming numbers, novel ways to prevent and treat this disease are being continuously studied; garlic included. Garlic and garlic-derived compounds have been linked to decreased breast cancer risk in recent years. Tsubara, et. al. found that diallyl disulfide (DADS) from garlic could potentially be used to control breast cancer by inhibiting linoleic acid, which increases breast cancer risk, and synergizing with eicosapentaenoic acid, which suppresses breast cancer. [11]

Garlic And Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer is the third most common malignancy globally, with an estimated 1.9 million cases in 2020 and touted as the second most deadly cancer in the world. [12] An older study in 1987 found that diallyl sulfide, another compound found in garlic, inhibited colorectal adenocarcinoma by 74% after 20 weekly injections. [13] Similar results were seen in in 2010 by Bat-Chen, et. al., where researchers concluded that allicin from fresh garlic cloves was able to cause cell death in colon cancer cells. [14]

Garlic And Gastric Cancer

In 2020, gastric cancer affected approximately 1.1 million people globally, with incidence rates twice as high in males compared to females. [15] The results of a longitudinal study was published in 2019, revealing that garlic and vitamin supplementation for seven years along with H. pylori treatment for two weeks was able to reduce gastric cancer (GC) mortality. [16] Guo, et. al. in 2020 used the same protocol for their study and found that garlic supplementation for 7 years and H. pylori treatment for two weeks was able to reduce the risk for gastric cancer. The researchers focused further on lifestyle modifications, reporting that smoking increased GC risk and not drinking alcohol reduced it, when coupled with supplementation with garlic. [17]

Garlic And Heart Disease

Garlic is not only known for its anti-cancer abilities; it has also been linked to improvement in heart health, able to manage hypertension and reduce the risk for coronary artery disease. Varshney and Budoff found that garlic supplementation was able to reduce systolic blood pressure by 7 to 16 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 5-9 mmHg. While these numbers may not seem like a big deal, it can mean the difference between being diagnosed with a chronic disease or not. Reduction in total cholesterol (TC) was reported in the study, dropping TC levels by 7.4-29.8 mg/dl. In fact, similar to the studies conducted by Pinto in 1997 and 2000, aged garlic extract was the most effective in reducing the risk for heart disease. [18]

Benefits Of Black Garlic / Aged Garlic

Black garlic is a type of aged or fermented garlic that has significant amounts of beneficial organosulfur compounds. It has also been mentioned previously in various studies on prostate cancer and heart disease. [7][8][18] Ahmed & Wang in 2021 reported the numerous therapeutic benefits of black garlic: anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, anti-obesity, hypolipidemia, cardiovascular protection, anti-allergy, immunomodulation, nephroprotection (kidney protection), neuroprotection, hepatoprotection (liver protection), and of course, anti-cancer. While these claims are still being studied, the results are very promising indeed. The researchers recommend conducting further studies on black garlic’s preparation and bioavailability, as well as improvements in sample size, to understand more about its potential health benefits. [19]

The organosufur compounds in garlic have been linked to various health benefits, primarily in the reduction of cancer risk (and in some cases, therapeutic effects on actual cancer cases). Garlic supplementation can be a natural way to help fight cancer, as well as including garlic in your daily meals. Boosting your immunity through garlic’s anti-inflammatory characteristics may just be what you need to give your health a boost!


[1] World Health Organization. Cancer.

[2] Bayan, L., et. al. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects.

[3] Lau, B., et. al. (1990). Allium sativum (Garlic) and cancer prevention.

[4] Omar, S. & Al-Wabel, N. (2010). Organosulfur compounds and possible mechanism of garlic in cancer.

[5] Oregon State University. Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds.

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prostate Cancer Statistics.

[7] Pinto, J., et. al. (1997). Effects of garlic thioallyl derivatives on growth, glutathione concentration, and polyamine formation of human prostate carcinoma cells in culture.

[8] Pinto, J., et. al. (2000). Alterations of prostate biomarker expression and testosterone utilization in human LNCaP prostatic carcinoma cells by garlic-derived S-allylmercaptocysteine.

[9] Howard, E., et. al. (2007). Garlic-Derived S-allylmercaptocysteine Is a Novel In vivo Antimetastatic Agent for Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer.

[10] World Health Organization. Breast Cancer.

[11] Tsubara, Ai., et. al. (2011). Anticancer Effects of Garlic and Garlic-derived Compounds for Breast Cancer Control.

[12] Xi, Y. & Xu, P. (2021). Global colorectal cancer burden in 2020 and projections to 2040.

[13] Wargovich, M. (1987). Diallyl sulfide, a flavor component of garlic ( Allium sativum ), inhibits dimethyihydrazine-induced colon cancer.

[14] Bat-Chen, W., et. al. (2010). Allicin Purified From Fresh Garlic Cloves Induces Apoptosis in Colon Cancer Cells Via Nrf2.

[15] Morgan, E., et. al. (2022). The current and future incidence and mortality of gastric cancer in 185 countries, 2020–40: A population-based modelling study.

[16] Li, W., et. al. (2019). Effects of Helicobacter pylori treatment and vitamin and garlic supplementation on gastric cancer incidence and mortality: follow-up of a randomized intervention trial.

[17] Guo, Y., et. al. (2020). Association Between Lifestyle Factors, Vitamin and Garlic Supplementation, and Gastric Cancer Outcomes: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial.

[18] Varshney, R. & Budoff, M. (2016). Garlic and Heart Disease.

[19] Ahemed, T. & Wang, C. (2021). Black Garlic and Its Bioactive Compounds on Human Health Diseases: A Review.

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