Why Garlic Is Good for You
Garlic Relaxes Blood Vessels, Increases Blood Flow
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 15, 2007 -- The health benefits of garlic have been touted for
centuries, but now researchers may have pinpointed at least one reason why.
A new study shows red blood cells process compounds from digested garlic and
turn them into the cell messenger hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which relaxes blood
vessels and increases blood flow. Therefore, eating garlic may increase our
natural supply of this vital chemical and play a role in reducing the risk of
Previous studies on garlic’s health effects have produced mixed results. For
example, some studies of garlic have found few benefits, but others have been
shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
But researchers say if further studies confirm these findings, testing the
ability to produce hydrogen sulfide may be used to standardize garlic
supplements to produce greater health benefits.
Finding Garlic’s Effect
In the study, researcher Gloria Benavides, of the University of Alabama at
Birmingham, and colleagues analyzed the effects of juice extracted from
supermarket garlic on human red blood cells in the lab.
They found the red blood cells immediately began producing hydrogen sulfide
after getting a tiny dose of garlic. The amount of garlic tested in the lab was
roughly equal to two garlic cloves for a typical adult.
Further tests showed the key chemical reaction occurred at the membranes of
the red blood cells, but a small amount of hydrogen sulfide was also produced
inside the cells.
Few plants other than garlic contain the building blocks of hydrogen sulfide
to provide these health benefits, and researchers say garlic is the only one
commonly used in the human diet.
Their results appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of