Garlic is being used for the prevention of breast, colon, rectal, lung, prostate, and stomach cancers. And now, new research is indicating that garlic's healing properties may be able to stop the growth of another type of cancer: ovarian cancer.
Dating all the way back to 5000 years ago, garlic has been used in food and as medicine, exhibiting nutritional and medicinal value. In fact, it was the Greek physician Hippocrates, also known as the “Father of Western Medicine”, who recommended the use of garlic for a variety of conditions and ailments. He believed that its properties were effective in preventing and treating poor digestion, respiratory problems, parasites, and fatigue.
Today, garlic is considered to be a superfood because of its role in promoting good health. Some of the health benefits it encompasses include:
- It has natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory activities;
- It lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol and heightens ‘good’ cholesterol;
- It prompts the production of natural killer cells that are vital to enhancing immunity;
- It assists in the detoxification process of the blood;
- It can tackle sickness, including the common cold;
- It contains active compounds that can help to lower blood pressure;
- It contains antioxidants that may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia;
- It stimulates proper blood flow, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attack;
- It reduces the accumulation of deadly plaque in the arteries and in doing so, prevents the onset of atherosclerosis and the progression of heart disease;
Garlic is also being reviewed for its potential as an anti-cancer agent. It is being used by some individuals for the prevention of breast cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer. And now, new research is indicating that the healing properties of garlic may be able to stop the growth of another type of cancer: ovarian cancer.
The findings were published in the Journal of Ovarian Research.
The effect of a garlic derivative
Unlike other types of cancers, there are no accurate tests for ovarian cancer screening, which is why it can be rather difficult to detect the cancer in its early stages. Moreover, the challenges with this disease – tumor progression and drug resistance (to name a few) – are what are stressing the vital need for more effective treatment options.
For this reason, a team of researchers from China decided to look into the strong association between use of garlic and reduced onset of cancer. More specifically, they directed their focus on one the most beneficial nutrients in garlic called S-allylcysteine (SAC). From previous studies, this water-soluble compound has already been found to suppress the rapid reproduction of ovarian cancer cells and to stimulate apoptosis in such cells. However, in order to better understand its exact mechanism and its effectiveness in reducing cancer cell progression, the researchers sought to investigate the epigenetic mechanism involved in the process.
Epigenetics is the study of alterations in the DNA that affect gene activity without changing the genetic sequence. DNA methylation is by far the most well-known epigenetic mechanism. It occurs when methyl groups are connected to the DNA molecule and from there, the process is navigated by a cluster of enzymes called DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). DNMT1 is responsible for upholding patterns of DNA methylation and it can also associate with RNA molecules to block gene-specific DNA methylation. On the other contrary, DNMT3a and DNMT3b are responsible for helping to establish new patterns of DNA methylation.
Throughout the past few years, multiple studies being carried out have reported that defects in DNMTs are linked to tumor development and progression. This may help to explain why promising drugs that act as DNMT inhibitors have proven successful to treating certain types of cancer.
In the current study, the researchers were aware that SAC was capable of suppressing the rapid reproduction of cells when administered to the ovarian cancer cell line - A2780. They then took it upon themselves to measure A2780 after treatment with SAC provided at different concentration levels. They also measured several other factors, including the activity of DNMT in the cells after treatment with SAC and the analysis of the tumor suppressor gene known as CDKN1A.
A much-anticipated weapon against cancer
As they had predicted, the researchers observed that the natural compound stopped the growth of cancerous cells. It also reduced levels of DNMT1, but not DNMT3a and DNMT3b in cells. “DNMT1 is a maintenance methylase, which is the most important in the whole process of DNA methylation, whereas DNMT3a/DNMT3b is involved in de novo methylation” stressed the researchers.
Additionally, they found that SAC affected the proper function of the A2780 cell cycle by triggering the onset of CDKN1A. In other words, the natural compound detected the defects to halt the cell cycle in G1 before the process of cell division had a chance to begin. “The regulation of cell cycle progression is an important system to control cancer cell proliferation. The cell cycle is a complex process that ensures correct cell division. It is tightly regulated by arrest at the G1 or G2 checkpoints and multiple molecular pathways, including oncogenic signaling, cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs), and their regulatory inhibitors” said the researchers.
In conclusion, the study confirmed that SAC is capable of halting the growth of ovarian cancer cells and it proved its effectiveness by means of epigenetic mechanism through DNMT1. Moreover, it demonstrated the impact of DNMT1 on the proper function of the A2780 cell cycle. The findings of the study suggest that SAC has the potential to be an anti-cancer agent, one that could work well when combined with other radiation or chemo therapies. However, further research may be helpful in understanding this natural compound a bit more and its effect on the treatment of ovarian cancer, as well as other types of similar cancers.
Harnessing the power of a superfood herb
It is reported that an abundant amount of the nutritional benefits of garlic can be reaped by consuming the vegetable as close to raw as possible. In addition, it is advised to chop or crush garlic and to let it sit for a few minutes before consuming it. It is not, however, advised to microwave this vegetable as the process cuts its rich antioxidant content by over 75%.
Combined with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet, garlic can positively contribute to one’s lifestyle. It can even help lower the risk of various health conditions, including heart disease and certain types of cancer. While it may seem like a simple vegetable in the produce department, garlic is, in fact, a significant contribution to the body’s overall health and well-being.