Eating garlic is good for your heart. Research shows that this bulb affects arteriosclerosis, triglycerides, blood pressure, platelet aggregation, and plasma viscosity – all of which are risk factors for heart disease, as previously mentioned. Here Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com, reflects on a recent study indicating how eating garlic may protect your brain:
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“Eating garlic may be good for your brain, particularly as you age. The pungent herb may protect brain health by fighting age-related changes in gut health linked to cognitive function, according to University of Louisville researchers.
The study, which was presented at the American Physiological Society's 2019 annual meeting, adds more credence to garlic's status as a superfood, and support for its powerful medicinal properties, which have been valued since ancient times.
A high diversity of gut bacteria tends to be associated with better health, but as you age, gut diversity may decline. At the same time, neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's tend to develop in later life, leading researchers to look into the association between changes in gut microbiota and cognitive decline associated with aging, and how garlic may help.
Garlic Compound Improves Gut Bacteria, Memory
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The study involved 24-month-old mice, which is equivalent to between 56 and 69 years in humans. Some of the mice received allyl sulfide, a compound in garlic, which led to improved long- and short-term memory, as well as healthier gut bacteria,1 compared to mice that didn't receive the supplement.
Mice taking the garlic compound also had higher gene expression of neuronal-derived natriuretic factor (NDNF), a gene required for memory consolidation. Reduced gene expression of NDNF may be linked to cognitive decline.
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“Our findings suggest that dietary administration of garlic containing allyl sulfide could help maintain healthy gut microorganisms and improve cognitive health in the elderly,” study author Jyotirmaya Behera, Ph.D., said in a press release.2
The link between gut bacteria and neurological health is not new. People with dementia, for instance, have a different makeup of gut microbiota compared to those without.3 Researchers further explained in the journal Protein & Cell:4
“New researches indicate that gastrointestinal tract microbiota are directly linked to
dementia pathogenesis through triggering metabolic diseases and low-grade inflammation progress.
A novel strategy is proposed for the management of these disorders and as an adjuvant for psychiatric treatment of dementia and other related diseases through modulation of the microbiota (e.g. with the use of probiotics).”
That garlic could act as a key modulator of gut microbiota is a more novel concept, although perhaps it shouldn't be, as garlic is a source of inulin, a type of water-soluble prebiotic fiber. Inulin assists with digestion and absorption of your food and plays a significant role in your immune function.
Inulin is a fructan, which means it is made up of chains of fructose molecules. In your gut, inulin is converted into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are then converted to healthy ketones that feed your tissues.
Aged Garlic Extract May Benefit Your Brain
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Previous research has also highlighted the benefits of a specific type of garlic — aged garlic extract (AGE) — for brain health. Known to have strong anti-inflammatory effects, AGE improved short-term recognition memory and relieved neuroinflammation in rats with an Alzheimer's-like disease.5
The study used fresh garlic that was aged in order to create aged garlic extract, which produces beneficial organosulfur compounds including s-allyl cysteine (SAC), which is found in far greater quantities in aged garlic and black fermented garlic than it is in raw garlic.
AGE also contains thiosulfinates that have antioxidant effects, and more than 350 studies have demonstrated its safety and effectiveness in humans. AGE may protect the brain in a number of ways, including:6
- Protect against neurodegenerative conditions
- Prevent brain injury following ischemia
- Protect neuronal cells against apoptosis
- Preventing β-amyloid-induced oxidative death
“Moreover,” researchers explained in the journal Nutrients, “treatment with AGE or S-allyl cysteine has been shown to prevent the degeneration of the brain's frontal lobe, improve learning and memory retention, and extend life span.”7
Aged garlic extract has also been found to improve gut microbiota, including increased microbial richness and diversity after three months of use.8 AGE and SAC have even been highlighted as potential preventative and therapeutic agents for Alzheimer's disease.9 That being said, fresh garlic has also shown promise for memory function, including one study in which rats fed garlic had increased memory retention.10
Garlic Has Been Prized Since Ancient Times
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The value of garlic has been recognized for centuries. There are references to garlic on Sumerian clay tablets dating back to 2600 B.C. In ancient Egypt, garlic was given to the working class to support heavy labor.”
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