June 6, 2008 -- The next time you serve your favorite Italian dish, consider ditching the bottled garlic and opt for fresh garlic instead.
Fresh garlic may be better for you, according to new research published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Researchers in Japan compared fresh garlic with garlic preserved in water, alcohol, and vegetable oil, specifically measuring a key ingredient called allicin. Allicin is the main active ingredient in garlic and the chemical responsible for its characteristic smell.
Allicin is widely promoted for its antibacterial properties. Some studies have shown that allicin helps fight infections and may help prevent bacteria-related food poisoning. Other research has suggested that the compound can help against blood clots and certain cancers.
Allicin is fragile and disappears quickly, leading the study's researchers to question whether various storage methods would affect its levels.
The team's experiments revealed that fresh crushed garlic is more stable and maintains higher levels of allicin than preserved versions.
Garlic stored in water at room temperature is better than garlic preserved in vegetable oil. Allicin levels decreased by about half after about six days in water, but the vegetable-oil storage method robbed garlic of half its allicin in a few hours.
Garlic's antibacterial properties declined as allicin levels dropped. However, researchers believe the allicin breaks down into compounds that may still be helpful.