Onions and garlic: not only anti-cancer, anti-arthritis too

The Allium family of vegetables, which includes onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, and scallions add more than just flavor to your diet, they also add anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant compounds.

Epidemiological studies have found that increased consumption of Allium vegetables is associated with lower risk of gastric and prostate cancers, and this is thought to be due to their organosulfur compounds, which are released when the vegetables are chopped, crushed, or chewed. These compounds prevent the development of cancers by detoxifying carcinogens, halting cancer cell growth, and preventing tumors from obtaining a blood supply.[1]

New research suggests that the organosulfur compounds in Allium family members may also have anti-inflammatory actions that protect against osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by painful degradation of the cartilage in the joints of the knees, hands, hips, back, and/or neck. Osteoarthritis is a common chronic condition among middle-aged and elderly persons, a progressive disease affecting nearly 27 million Americans. It is the most common cause of disability in the U.S. [2]

Excess weight is a risk factor for osteoarthritis (particularly in the knee), and scientists hypothesized that in addition to mechanical pressure on the joints in overweight individuals, a diet low in micronutrients may also contribute to the progression of osteoarthritis. Oxidative stress is known to contribute to osteoarthritis by damaging cartilage[3], and levels of endogenous antioxidants are suppressed in the fluid of arthritic joints compared to joints with intact cartilage. [4] Dietary antioxidants are thought to be protective against osteoarthritis, but other micronutrients have not yet been studied.

Dietary patterns and osteoarthritis were assessed in a study of 1086 women. After adjustment for age, body mass index, and physical activity, the ‘fruit and vegetable’ dietary pattern, which was characterized by frequent intake of fruit, Allium vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables and low intake of fried potatoes, was protective for hip osteoarthritis. Two specific food groups also had strong beneficial effects: non-citrus fruits and Allium vegetables.

To investigate a potential mechanism by which Allium vegetables might protect the joints from cartilage damage, researchers then tested diallyl disulphide (DADS; an organosulfur compound) for its effects on inflammation-induced cartilage damage in vitro. DADS suppressed the expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) – MMPs are elevated in response to inflammatory signals and contribute to the cartilage degradation characteristic of osteoarthritis.[5] These results suggest that organosulfur compounds in Allium vegetables can help to prevent or halt the progression of osteoarthritis.

DADS is just one of many phytochemicals present in Allium vegetables – when we eat these vegetables, thousands of organosulfur compounds, antioxidants, and other micronutrients work together to prevent disease. And when we use garlic and onion to flavor a dish of greens, beans, and mushrooms, the additive nutritional benefits that we receive are remarkable. A nutritarian dietary approach is designed to maximize anti-cancer and disease-protective benefits. If you choose otherwise, eat at your own risk.

 

 

References:

1. Powolny, A. and S. Singh, Multitargeted prevention and therapy of cancer by diallyl trisulfide and related Allium vegetable-derived organosulfur compounds. Cancer Letters, 2008. 269(2): p. 305-314.
2. Arthritis Foundation: Osteoarthritis Fact Sheet. 2008.
3. Henrotin, Y. and B. Kurz, Antioxidant to treat osteoarthritis: dream or reality? Curr Drug Targets, 2007. 8(2): p. 347-57.
4. Regan, E.A., R.P. Bowler, and J.D. Crapo, Joint fluid antioxidants are decreased in osteoarthritic joints compared to joints with macroscopically intact cartilage and subacute injury. Osteoarthritis Cartilage, 2008. 16(4): p. 515-21.
5. Williams, F.M., et al., Dietary garlic and hip osteoarthritis: evidence of a protective effect and putative mechanism of action. BMC Musculoskelet Disord, 2010. 11(1): p. 280.

 

CSA Boxed Share 8.17.09

Yesterday was interesting, just look at that bizarre mutant tomato! I think it’s related to Swamp Thing. But the rest of the box share was pretty tame: basil, lettuce, parsley, zucchini, squash, green peppers, purple peppers, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, eggplant, hot peppers and more tomatoes. All good stuff!

 

CSA Boxed Share 8.10.09

Ugh! It hardly feels like summer this year with all the rain we've been having. If it wasn’t for my CSA box shares I think I’d pack up shop and move to California. Luckily, this week was a good haul. It cheered me up a bit.

As you can see, I got a whole box of tomatoes, plus cherry tomatoes, cabbage, corn, shallots, green bell peppers, garlic, potatoes, zucchini and yellow squash. After I split it with my buddy, I took home half the tomatoes, some potatoes, the squash, a few shallots and the garlic. Sweet!

CSA Boxed Share 8.4.09

Despite the rainy, depressing weather, yesterday’s box share brightened up my day. Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables, so I was stoked when I found two containers of cherry tomatoes, along with regular tomatoes, corn, cabbage, basil, shallots, zucchini, garlic, potatoes and onions.

Now, until my garbage tomato starts bearing fruit—no doubt it’s been delayed by the unseasonably cool summer—I’ll have to make do with these tomatoes. Okay, so after the split with my friend I got some potatoes, shallots, corn, onions, zucchini and of course tomatoes. Sweet!

 

Fresh Garlic Better Than Garlic Powder, Duh!

I’m Italian, so I’m required to like garlic, but that garlic powder I grew up on can’t hold a candle to fresh garlic. A new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry claims that raw, crushed garlic has more heart-protective effects than the dried stuff.

In the study, Dipak K. Das and colleagues point out that raw, crushed garlic generates hydrogen sulfide through a chemical reaction. Although best known as the stuff that gives rotten eggs their distinctive odor, hydrogen sulfide also acts as a chemical messenger in the body, relaxing blood vessels and allowing more blood to pass through. Processed and cooked garlic, however, loses its ability to generate hydrogen sulfide.

The scientists gave freshly crushed garlic and processed garlic to two groups of lab rats, and then studied how well the animals' hearts recovered from simulated heart attacks. "Both crushed and processed garlic reduced damage from lack of oxygen, but the fresh garlic group had a significantly greater effect on restoring good blood flow in the aorta and increased pressure in the left ventricle of the heart," Das said.

Garlic is one of the foods Dr. Fuhrman recommends diabetics eat plenty of, along side green vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions. Sometimes I bake garlic cloves in the oven and spread it on wholegrain bread.

Via EurekAlert!

Image credit: Ian-S

CSA Boxed Share 7.27.09

I really didn’t want to leave the house yesterday. It was hot and sticky—I hate the humidity—but I had to. My CSA box share was waiting and even though I split the share with a friend. I’m the go-for. Luckily, it was a good haul this week: wild flowers, red onion, scallions, tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, garlic, cucumbers, zucchini and some sort of squash.

My friend just had a kid. So I let her keep the flowers. She looked like she went a few rounds with Mike Tyson. So they brightened up her day. Plus, she didn’t want much else. My friend only took a few potatoes and some scallions and red onions. I kept the cucumbers and gave the rest of the stuff to my mom. She’s a much better cook than me.

CSA Boxed Share 7.20.09

The CSA gods were good to me again this week. My box share did not disappoint. Yesterday we got red potatoes, red leaf lettuce, scallions, garlic, zucchini, cucumbers, red cabbage, tomatoes and basil. Splitting it with my friend was hard, but we managed.

After a brief fist fight—mind you, she is 9 months pregnant—we divided up the potatoes, scallions, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and lettuce and I kept the red cabbage. She took the garlic and the basil. I’m Italian. My mom grows enough basil to feed an army.

 

CSA Boxed Share 7.13.09

Looks like the summer harvest is in full swing! My garbage tomato is thriving and my local CSA box shares are getting better and better. This week the box was pretty heavy again. That’s a good sign! Means there’s plenty of good stuff inside.

When I cracked the lid, I found beets, onions, cucumbers, red and green leaf lettuce, zucchini, little gourds, garlic and a whole bunch of red potatoes. Awesome! The cucumbers didn’t even last an hour. I whipped up some avocado and destroyed them. 

CSA Boxed Share 7.6.09

I always get excited when I pick up my share for the week and the box is heavy—means there’s a bunch of cool stuff inside. Although, it’s pretty funny to watch a big tattooed galoot like me carrying a box of organic veggies around and then taking pictures of it like a mental patient.

Now, this week was packed with goodies. There was red leaf lettuce, kale, zucchini, cabbage, garlic, beets, fennel, onions, cucumbers and a flying saucer-looking gourd of some sort. I usually give the beets to my mom. It’s funny to watch her get ticked that they stain her hands. I’m evil.

CSA Boxed Share 6.29.09

Okay, I’ve decided for the rest of summer I am going to ditch my search for marked down fruits and vegetables and—in the spirit of the season—blog about all the cool stuff I get from my local community supported agriculture. Sound like a good idea? I think so.

As you can see, yesterday’s box was loaded with awesome vegetables. After I split it up with my friend, I was left with the broccoli, radicchio, lettuce, fennel and some onions and garlic. Not a bad haul, but I have a busy week ahead of me, so I gave most of it to my mom.