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Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA and Carolyn Fauteux   

Allicin Description

Allicin,  a phytonutrient, is an organic compound found in garlic. garlic

Allicin was discovered in 1944 by Cavallito et al.1 who first noted the potent antimicrobial activity of allicin. While allicin received a patent for its antifungal activity in test tubes, no clinical trials have been performed with allicin for antimicrobial benefits and allicin has never developed into a drug or commercial product due to the instability, inability to be absorbed, and offensive odor of allicin and allicin containing products.  

Allicin Properties

Allicin contains the sulfur containing compounds alliin, ajoene, diallylsulfide, dithiin, S-allylcysteine, and enzymes, vitamin B, proteins, minerals, saponins, flavonoids, and maillard reaction products, which are non-sulfur containing compounds.

When crushed, Aalium sativum produces allicin, a powerful antibiotic and antifungal compound (phytoncide).  Allicin's antimicrobial effect is due to its chemical reaction with thiol groups of various enzymes.

Allicin Food Sources

Allicin is the predominant thiosulfinate in raw garlic (Allium sativum) and is responsible for the typical and offensive odor of garlic.

You get the most allicin in raw crushed garlic. Cooking destroys allicin but releases other agents, such as ajoene and adenosine, that act as anti-coagulants. Thus, raw and cooked garlic have different medicinal properties.

Allicin Supplementsodorless_allicin_soft_gel

A good low-cost source of allicin is plain garlic powder from the supermarket, says an analysis by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Allicin supplements can also be purchased from vitamin and health food stores. Commercial garlic pills, except Kyolic brand, contain various amounts of allicin.

Allicin Health Benefits

Allicin is a phytonutrient that has several functional health effects. The purported health effects include:

  • Antibiotic and anti-viral activity. People believe that allicin provides antibiotic and anti-viral health benefits against infectious diseases such as colds and the flu. Studies have confirmed that allicin has inhibitory activity on Helicobacter pylori, bacteria responsible for the development of gastric ulcers. The sensitivity of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) to allicin might also explain the lower risk of stomach cancer in people with high garlic intake.
  • Heart friendly. Allicin can reduce atherosclerosis and fat deposition, normalizes lipoprotein balance, reduce blood pressure, produce anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory activities. There are many believers that allicin is the main reason garlic tends to lower blood cholesterol and thins the blood, warding off blood clots. Although recent studies suggest that other compounds in garlic may be provided these heart healthy benefits.
  • Anti Cancer. Allicin functions as a an antioxidant and like other garlic agents allicin can have anti-cancer activity.

Health Benefits and Value of Allicin Questioned

Much of the scientific community questions the value of food sources and supplements for allicin, because allicin is so unstable.

  • Cooking, and crushing garlic affects allicin stability. 99% loss of allicin
  • Stomach acid destroys alliinase, the enzyme which catalyzes the conversion of alliin to allicin, preventing allicin production.
  • A 99% loss in allicin production was observed following consecutive exposure to simulated stomach fluids and simulated intestinal fluids which would occur when one takes a garlic powder orally.2
  • Contrary to the popular myth that a garlic product must contain allicin to be beneficial, allicin has not been conclusively proven to be responsible for garlic's known health benefits. Most of the garlic or garlic products that have been based to demonstrate garlic health effects do not contain significant amounts of allicin.3

Based on these findings, it appears that unless a garlic powder bypasses the stomach, the amount of allicin produced is negligible.

References

  1. Cavalitto, C.J. et al. 1944. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 66: 1950.
  2. Yu. T-H, and Wu, C-M. Stability of allicin in garlic juice. J. Food Sci. 54(4): 977-981, 1989.
  3. Lin, R.I.S., Ph.D., chairman: "First World Congress on the Health Significance of Garlic and Garlic Constituents." Sponsor: Nutrition       International Company. Cosponsors: Pennsylvania State University and United States Department of Agriculture. August 28-30, 1990.       Washington, D.C.

 

 
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