Garlic's potential as a remedy to prevent and combat a wide range of diseases has been lauded and practiced for thousands of years. By the 21st century medicine has confirmed many of the medicinal benefits of garlic. Among the wide range of remedial and preventive properties, garlic has shown the ability to boost immunity. Other effects that are linked in some ways to immunological mechanisms including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and overcoming fatigue.
The pungent taste of garlic is not to everyone's liking, as its odor may remain on the breath and skin for days; moreover, large quantities of ingested garlic, potentially needed to boost immunity may cause gastrointestinal disturbances. The supplement Aged Garlic ExtractTM (Kyolic® AGETM) that is odorless, has become a most popular preparation that provides the benefits of garlic, including boosting immunity, without the unpleasant side effects. Moreover, its efficacy and reliable standing as the preferred garlic formulation for research on the health benefits of garlic, has yielded over 700 peer reviewed research publications in scientific and medical journals.
Aged Garlic Extract
The manufacturing of AGE, by Wakunaga of America, consists of harvesting organically grown garlic, and carrying out a procedure of extraction and aging, at room temperature, for 20 months The process converts harsh volatile compounds such as allicin to stable substances, thereby increasing antioxidant levels in AGE above levels found in fresh garlic.
Among the many components in AGE the major ones are organosulfur antioxidants, largely water soluble, and highly bioavailable including S-Allyl cysteine and S-Allyl mercaptocysteine. Also present are lipid soluble organosulfur compounds, carbohydrates, including fructans, which are immuo-boosters, micronutrients such as selenium and other antioxidants such as fructosyl arginine and alixin. The high antioxidant level in AGE prevent the damage induced by free radicals that are generated in metabolism and enhanced by environmental factors, such as radiation of different types including UV light from the sun and UV machines. Free radical damage plays a role in inflammation, and various pathological conditions including heart disease, dementia and cancer, so that the inhibition of free radicals by AGE is part of its action in helping prevent these pathological conditions, in part by boosting immunity.
Our Immune System
A healthy immune system is the secret to good health, protecting against infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi and helping block the development of cancer. A weak immune system exposes us to the damaging effects of infectious bacteria and viruses around us, from direct contact, exposure to a cough or a sneeze, from contaminated food and a wide range of sources that trigger serious illnesses, that may lead to death.
The immune system is complex and multilayered. Inflammation is one of the first responses of the immune system to infection and involves the release of substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes that attract white blood cells (leukocytes) and interferons, that have anti-viral effects.
Among the white cells, the leukocytes there exist B and T lymphocytes. There are subtypes of T cells: killer T cell that kill cells infected with pathogens and helper T cell that regulate the immune response. Killer T cells kill cells that are infected with viruses (and other pathogens), or are otherwise damaged or dysfunctional. Helper T cells regulate the immune responses directing other cells to perform various tasks. Natural killer cell (NK) have in their power to kill tumor cells. Another group of lymphocytes are ãä-T cells that share the characteristics of helper T cells, killer T cells and NK cells.
AGE Enhances Immunity
Aged Garlic Extract has been shown in preclinical and clinical studies to enhance the immune response, mitigate infectious diseases, and kill cancer cells. AGE intake has been shown to increase the phagocytic (cell-killing) activity of macrophages, the activity of the T lymphocytes and increase the number and action of natural killer cells (NK) and antitumor action; AGE also was found to inhibit the allergy-causing histamine release and have anti-inflammatory effects, suppressing prostaglandins and enhancing interferon.
AGE Increases NK Activity
In a random double-blind clinical trial, Ishikawa and colleagues found that AGE given to patients with colorectal, liver or pancreatic cancer resulted in a significant increase in the number and activity of the NK cells, killing cancer cells.
Advanced-cancer patients with a decline in immune functions and quality of life, with inoperable colorectal, liver, or pancreatic cancer were recruited for the study. In a randomized six month double-blind trial, AGE was given to one group and a placebo to another. The patients consisted of 42 with liver cancer (84 percent), seven patients with pancreatic cancer (14 percent), and one patient with colon cancer (two percent). The study showed that both the number of NK cells and the NK cell activity increased significantly in the AGE group; showing that the administration of AGE to patients with advanced cancer of the digestive system has the potential to improve the anti-tumor NK cell activity.
AIDS patients show lower levels of NK cells. Abdullah and colleagues showed that a six week intake of AGE at 1800 mg/day increased the levels of NK cells to that of healthy individuals; Helper T cells were also increased and patients showed an improvement of several pathological conditions, including herpes virus infection, yeast infections and diarrhea; Comparing the efficacy of AGE to that of fresh garlic, investigators found that AGE was more effective as an immune-stimulator than fresh garlic; NK activity was increased by 160 percent with the intake of AGE capsules compared with an increase of 140 percent in patients taking the fresh garlic preparation.
AGE Helps Reduce Colds And Flu
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study recruited 120 healthy subjects (60 per group between ages of 21 and 50) and evaluated the effect of AGE supplementation (2.56 g/d) on the proliferation of immune cells and cold and flu symptoms.
After 45 days of intake of an encapsulated Aged Garlic Extract, NK and £^£_-T cells rose in number, compared to placebo. Following 90 days of supplementation, diary entries of illness showed that though the incidence of colds and flu, were not statistically different, the group consuming Aged Garlic Extract showed a reduced severity of both colds and flu noted by a reduction in the number of reported symptoms (21 percent fewer) and by a reduction in the number of days (61 percent fewer), and incidences (58 percent fewer) where the subjects¡¦ function was sub optimal.
The investigators concluded that supplementation of the diet with AGE may enhance immune cell function and potentially reduce inflammation, resulting in a reduced severity of colds and flu.
AGE Blocks Ultraviolet-Induced Immunosuppression.
Studies on human volunteers in Australia found that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) causes immunosuppression resulting in an increase skin cancer frequency. There was a gender difference. UV doses that caused immunosuppression in men were three times lower than those causing immunosuppression in women. The investigators concluded that this phenomenon might underlie the higher incidence of skin cancer and mortality observed in the male population.
In a preclinical study, where the immune response as measured by contact hypersensitivity, Reeve and colleagues found that immunosuppression of 58 percent induced by a moderate exposure to UVB radiation was reduced to 19 percent by a diet containing AGE, at 4 percent of the diet. The preclinical studies suggest that AGE may help protect humans against immunosuppression induced by exposure to UV, and therefore have a potential to reduce the risk of UV induced skin cancer, for example by lengthy exposures to the sun.
AGE Reduces Inflammatory Prostaglandins
Oxidative damage by free radicals and immune-inflammatory activation are considered important factors in the development of cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Prostaglandins are substances associated with inflammation in that the release of local pro-inflammatory prostaglandins takes place, accompanied by the destruction of tissue. Rahman and colleagues have shown that dietary supplementation with AGE for 14 days reduced the plasma and urine levels of prostaglandin 8-iso-PGF (2 alpha) by 29 and 37 percent, respectively in nonsmokers and by 35 and 48 percent, respectively in smokers.
By stopping the intake of AGE, they found that in both groups, smokers and non smokers, the plasma and urine concentrations of prostaglandins reversed to values that were no different from those before ingestion of AGE, within fourteen days after cessation of the dietary supplementation. The study shows that a continuous intake of AGE is required to maintain the reduced levels of inflammatory prostaglandins.
The Bottom LineReferences
Aged Garlic Extract is a powerful wide ranging health supplement that plays a role in helping enhance immunity and thus helping protect against diseases and conditions that involve inflammation and weakening of the immune system; such conditions have been reported to be associated with cancer development, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease as well as aging. In over 700 medical and scientific studies in both preclinical and clinical studies, AGE has shown its capacity to help reduce disease and maintain health.
- Nantz MP, Rowe CA, Muller CE et al Supplementation with aged garlic extract improves both NK and Υδ-T cell function and reduces the severity of cold and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled nutrition intervention. J Nutr. 2012; 31:337—44.
- Borek C. Dietary antioxidants and human cancer. Integr Cancer Ther. 2004;3:333—41.
- Reeve VE1, Bosnic M, Rozinova E, Boehm-Wilcox C. A garlic extract protects from ultraviolet B (280¡V320 nm) radiation-induced suppression of contact hypersensitivity. Photochem Photobiol. 1993;58:813—7.
- Dillon SA, Lowe GM, Billington D, Rahman K. Dietary supplementation with aged garlic extract reduces plasma and urine concentrations of 8-iso-prostaglandin F(2 alpha) in smoking and nonsmoking men and women. J Nutr. 2002 ;132:168—71.
- Ishikawa H, Saeki T, Otani T, Suzuki T, Shimozuma K, Nishino H, Fukuda S, Morimoto K. Aged garlic extract prevents a decline of NK cell number and activity in patients with advanced cancer. J Nutr. 2006;136:816S—820S
- Abdullah TH, Kirkpatrick DV, Carter J. Enhancement of natural killer activity in AIDS with garlic. J Oncology. 1989;21:52—3.
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Carmia Borek, PhD
Carmia Borek has a PhD in genetics and molecular biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and an MS degree in the fields of physiology, pharmacology and biochemistry, from George Washington University. As an expert in the fields of cancer and in the role of nutrition and antioxidants in disease prevention, Dr. Borek has published in over 300 scientific publications and has been the editor of several books in medicine and biology. Additionally, Dr. Borek is the author of over 100 educational and popular articles in the fields of diet and health, including the book Maximize Your Health-Span with Antioxidants, The Baby Boomer’s Guide a science-based book for the non-scientist.