Black garlic may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties

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In a recent review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, a group of authors investigated and summarized the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties of black garlic (BG), highlighting its bioactive compounds and potential therapeutic advantages over traditional garlic.

Study: Anti-Cancer and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Black Garlic. Image Credit: mnimage/Shutterstock.comStudy: Anti-Cancer and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Black Garlic. Image Credit: mnimage/Shutterstock.com

Background 

Garlic (Allium sativum L.), a widely used plant, comprises two subspecies with distinct structural features. While known for its health benefits like liver or kidney protection and anti-cancer properties, its intense flavor and smell limit its use, often causing bad breath, body odor, and potential toxicity in high doses.

BG, a product of aged raw garlic under controlled conditions, has emerged as a healthful alternative. This aging process, involving the Maillard reaction, alters garlic's color, texture, and taste, diminishing its harshness and odor and enhancing its bioactive compounds, especially antioxidants like S-allicin.

Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of BG's bioactive compounds and their potential therapeutic applications in human health.

Active compounds of BG

The aging process of BG significantly alters its physicochemical properties, leading to a marked increase in antioxidant compounds.

This process results in a chemical profile distinctly different from fresh garlic, as BG is enriched with a higher concentration of antioxidants like phenols, flavonoids, pyruvate, S-Allyl-Cysteine (SAC), and S-allyl-Mercapto-Cysteine (SAMC).

Additionally, it contains unique allicin-derived organosulfur compounds such as diallyl sulfides, disulfides, trisulfides, and tetrasulfides. The aging conditions, involving increased temperature and reduced humidity, significantly boost the levels of polyphenols and other bioactive compounds. 

This enhanced composition of black garlic is linked to numerous health benefits. Scientific research underscores its potential for anti-cancer, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Moreover, BG exhibits immunomodulatory, cardioprotective, nephroprotective, and hepatoprotective properties, along with benefits for the digestive and nervous systems. It also shows promise in managing diabetes and obesity, making it a valuable addition to health-promoting foods.

Antioxidative properties of BG

The antioxidative capacity of BG stands out primarily due to its enriched content of phenols and flavonoids.

These compounds are essential in combating the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body, which, if unchecked, can lead to oxidative stress - a precursor to various health issues, including inflammation and cancer.

Numerous factors, including the garlic variety, moisture content during the aging process, and the duration of fermentation, influence the extent of these antioxidative properties in black garlic.

Intriguingly, research suggests that the method of preparation significantly affects the antioxidative efficacy of black garlic.

For instance, extracts obtained using water as a solvent tend to exhibit higher antioxidant activities compared to those using alcohol. This variability underscores the importance of processing methods in determining the health benefits of black garlic.

Anti-inflammatory properties of BG

The anti-inflammatory properties of BG are as remarkable as its antioxidative capabilities. Key compounds in black garlic, such as pyruvate and SAC, have demonstrated their efficacy in suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

These compounds actively inhibit various inflammatory pathways at the cellular level, as evidenced in multiple studies.

This anti-inflammatory action is not limited to a single mechanism but extends across various models, effectively regulating blood sugar levels, reducing lipid peroxidation, and mitigating oxidative stress.

The broad spectrum of its anti-inflammatory potential suggests that black garlic could be a valuable dietary component in managing or preventing conditions associated with chronic inflammation.

Anti-cancer properties of BG

Cancer remains a significant global health challenge, with ongoing research into the role of phytochemicals in cancer therapy.

BG, with its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, also shows promise in direct anti-cancer applications. It has been found to inhibit proliferation and induce apoptosis in various cancer cell lines, including breast, colon, and liver cancers.

However, the effects vary depending on the type of cancer, and some cell lines show resistance to BG extracts, indicatin the need for further research to understand its full therapeutic potential.

The role of fermentation and aging in BG's properties

BG's fermentation and aging process is crucial in enhancing its bioactive properties. This process leads to new compounds with increased antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

The Maillard reaction, a key component of the aging process, contributes to transforming garlic’s compounds, enhancing its health benefits.

Future perspectives and research directions

While BG has shown promising anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, further research is required to understand its mechanisms and potential therapeutic applications fully.

Studies focusing on its effects on different types of cancer, particularly those resistant to current treatments, and the influence of fermentation variables on its bioactive properties will be crucial in harnessing its full potential in health and disease management.

Journal reference:
Vijay Kumar Malesu

Written by

Vijay Kumar Malesu

Vijay holds a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and possesses a deep passion for microbiology. His academic journey has allowed him to delve deeper into understanding the intricate world of microorganisms. Through his research and studies, he has gained expertise in various aspects of microbiology, which includes microbial genetics, microbial physiology, and microbial ecology. Vijay has six years of scientific research experience at renowned research institutes such as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and KIIT University. He has worked on diverse projects in microbiology, biopolymers, and drug delivery. His contributions to these areas have provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the ability to tackle complex research challenges.    

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