In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers show that eating garlic appears to boost our natural supply of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is actually poisonous at high concentrations — it’s the same noxious byproduct of oil refining that smells like rotten eggs. But the body makes its own supply of the stuff, which acts as an antioxidant and transmits cellular signals that relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.
In the latest study, performed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added small amounts to human red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide, the scientists found.
The power to boost hydrogen sulfide production may help explain why a garlic-rich diet appears to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer, say the study authors. Higher hydrogen sulfide might also protect the heart, according to other experts. Although garlic has not consistently been shown to lower cholesterol levels, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine earlier this year found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack.
Pretty amazing stuff. Unfortunately, as the article explains, whether garlic's healthy benefits survive the process of being turned into a supplement is up for debate, so you're best off to eat garlic in its natural form. Of course, there's a slight drawback to that:
Garlic can cause indigestion, but for many, the bigger concern is that it can make your breath and sweat smell like…garlic. While individual reactions to garlic vary, eating fennel seeds like those served at Indian restaurants helps to neutralize the smell.
So yes, you may reek to high heaven of garlic, but really it's for your health and if you're friends don't understand, that's their loss. And for what it's worth, vampires won't want anything to do with you either (bonus!)
Also, there's another compound you really ought to know about that's proving to do wonders for health. Tim F at Balloon Juice explains:
Let’s recap – the demonstrated effects of resveratrol include cancer resistance, prolonged lifespan, mitigating diabetes and other effects of morbid obesity, fighting diseases both inherited, acquired and infectious and now it can make you a champion athlete without training. Plus it has no toxic effects at any concentration yet measured. Ye gods.
And the more scientists study it, the better it looks. Resveratrol occurs naturally in grapes, and is concentrated to higher degrees naturally in the process of making red wines and red grape juice. Unfortunately, you have to drink inhuman amounts of either to get the healthy effects demonstrated by rats in lab studies, but you can get it in a supplement that allows you to take a moderate dosage of it without drinking enough alcohol to put you in the hospital for days. I'll make no recommendations here, but I strongly recommend reading all of Tim's post on resveratrol to learn more about it's amazing properties.
So there are your health tips for the day. Get to work on living to a ripe old age and you can thank us later.