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Tuesday, May 06, 2003
      ( 8:35 PM ) Jackie  

It's Not Just for Vampires Anymore

Garlic, it seems, is a preventive for prostate cancer. A single clove a day reduces incidence of prostate cancer by 50%, according to Michio Kaku on his program Explorations in Science.

A quick Google search turned up articles such as this one indicating that garlic, onions, chives, and shallots share whatever property protects against prostate cancer. It did not mention whether it was only garlic that keeps vampires at bay, however.

Moreover, there is a bit of controversery over the alleged cholesterol lowering properties of garlic. A 1999 CNN article touts the many cardiac benefits of garlic, even giving a brief explanation of how these are achieved. Unfortunately it did not actually reference the "clinical research" to which it referred in support of the claims.

Some folks at Penn State have even been busy identifying "a group of chemicals in garlic that decreases cholesterol production by liver cells 40 to 60 percent in laboratory tests. "

Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) discusses a meta-study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that "concluded that whether garlic’s 'effects are sustainable beyond three months is unclear.'" As expected, the AHRQ called for additional research.

Another study,reported by Tufts University, takes the middle road, concluding that "garlic has a modest effect on high cholesterol levels". More research is, of course, recommended.

I also learned that the claims for garlic as a preventative against vampires is also controversial.

One article-- updated in January 2003-- outlines the very old and wide-ranging belief in the use of garlic as a "repellant" against vampires.

On the other hand, a study reported in the United States National Library of Medicine (medline) suggests that "The traditional belief that garlic has prophylactic properties [against vampires] is probably wrong" and recommends restrictions on garlic in Norway, where the study was done.

Other than potential social and gastric problems -- and the potential for the dangers of choking from placing garlic in the mouth to "ward off vampires during the night"-- these studies appear not to have found any negative effects of garlic, so I say go for it and much down those garlic cloves.

By the way, Professor Kaku's program is always interesting. He provides a clear scientific voice on many scientific issues, frequently those relating to atomic energy and weaponry. I listen to his program on kpfa here in Oakland. It's also on wbai in New York and elsewhere.

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Words and photos from Jackie in Oakland, CA. More I cannot tell you ... I won't know what it is until I do it.

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