Garlic and Onions: Two Foods With a Medicinal Kick

Health benefits of garlic and onions.

On June 7th, 2017 the University of Guelph announced the findings of Prof. Suresh Neethirajan’s work with onions and the plant's ability to create a hostile environment for cancer cells in the body. Onions are an organic sulfur food, containing some powerful flavonoids. Flavonoids in the most simple explanation are the workhorse part of an antioxidant (Dimitrios, B. 2006). Antioxidants and flavonoids are highly researched because of anti-carcinogenic and anti-cancer properties (Borek, C. 1997; Le Marchand, L., Murphy, S. P., Hankin, J. H., Wilkens, L. R., & Kolonel, L. N. 2000; Lautraite, S., Musonda, A. C., Doehmer, J., Edwards, G. O., & Chipman, J. K. 2002). Onions contain two strong flavonoids, Anthocyanin and Quercetin. Years of research from around the globe has shown that Quercetin is a viable anti-cancer agent (Brisdelli, F., Coccia, C., Cinque, B., Cifone, M. G., & Bozzi, A. (2007) which is strengthened by Anthocyanin, which gives fruit color. While all onions contain this combination of flavonoids, red onions have the highest concentration of Anthocyanin.

In this recent study, Prof. Suresh Neethirajan’s research team put colon cancer cells in direct contact with Quercetin and found that cell death occurred in the cancer cells. Quercetin activates a metabolic pathway that results in cell death for cancerous cells. The other important advancement in this study is the development of an extraction method to isolate and extract Anthocyanin and Quercetin cleanly without the presence of unwanted foreign residue (Abdulmonem I. Murayyan, Cynthya M. Manohar, Gordon Hayward, Suresh Neethirajan. 2017).

Organic Sulfur foods

This recent study is one of many that have shown significant health benefits of organic sulfur foods, and biological benefits of Onions and Garlic (Amagase, H. 2006); Corzo-Martínez, Marta, Nieves Corzo, and Mar Villamiel. 2007). Garlic is often coupled with onions while cooking, so it is fitting that this combination provides many health benefits (Griffiths, G., Trueman, L., Crowther, T., Thomas, B., & Smith, B. 2002; Tattelman, E. M. D. 2005). Garlic, like the onion, is an organic sulfur food which contains many beneficial naturally occurring chemical compounds (Block, E. 1985; Lanzotti, V. 2006). 

Both garlic and onions contain antimicrobial compounds that can be extracted to preserve food and hinder microbial growths (Delaha, E. C., & Garagusi, V. F. (1985); Pszczola, D. E. 2002). They are natural antiparasitic and antiprotozoal which have shown to be effective in treating some parasite and bacterial infections (Bakri, I. M., & Douglas, C. W. I. 2005). Studies have demonstrated that garlic is effective as a broad spectrum antifungal treatment (Phay, N., Higashiyama, T., Tsuji, M., Matsuura, H., Fukushi, Y., Yokota, A., et al. 1999; Davis, S. R. 2005). Garlic is also an effective antibacterial agent against Pseudomonas, Proteus, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella, Salmonella, Micrococcus, Bacillus subtilis, Mycobacterium, Clostridium, Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus sobrinus, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Prevotella intermedia including strands that have become resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics (Ramos, F. A., Takaishi, Y., Shirotori, M., Kawaguchi, Y.,Tsuchiya, K., Shibata, H., et al. 2006). Depending on the preparation Garlic and onions have some anti-viral properties.

Research on garlic and onions' anti-cancer properties as an anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic agent began in the 1950’s beginning with Weisberger and Pensky (1958) study which showed that tumor growth could be inhibited by thiosulphate extracted from garlic. (Several studies are included in the reference section on the cancer-fighting properties of these foods) . Studies beginning in the 1980’s have demonstrated the ability of both raw garlic and raw onions to break down lipids and lower bad cholesterol (Chang, M. L. W., & Johnson, M. A. 1980; Ali, M., Bordia, T., & Mustafa, T. 1999; Liu, L., & Yeh, Y. Y. (2000). Ongoing studies are looking at cardiac and immune system benefits of garlic and onions (Aqel, M. B., Gharaibah, M. N., & Salva, A. S. 1991; Goldman, I. L., Kopelberg, M., Debaene, J. E. P., & Schwartz, B. S. 1996; Rahman, K., & Lowe, G. M. 2006).

Common side-effects of onions and garlic are bad breath, constipation, and gastral upset if eaten on an empty stomach, and flatulence. Both onions and garlic allergies can produce rashes, blister and breathing problems.

With all the health benefits of garlic and onions, it might be prudent to develop a taste for these two foods. 

NOTE: if you are allergic to one or both of these foods DO NOT EAT FOOD YOU ARE ALLERGIC TO.

References:

Abdulmonem I. Murayyan, Cynthya M. Manohar, Gordon Hayward, Suresh Neethirajan. (2017) Antiproliferative activity of Ontario grown onions against colorectal adenocarcinoma cells. Food Research International, 96: 12

Corzo-Martínez, Marta, Nieves Corzo, and Mar Villamiel. (2007) "Biological properties of onions and garlic." Trends in food science & technology 18.12: 609-625.

Ali, M., Bordia, T., & Mustafa, T. (1999). Effect of raw versus boiled aqueous extract of garlic and onion on platelet aggregation. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 60,

Ali, M., Thomson, M., & Afzal, M. (2000). Garlic and onions: their effect on eicosanoid metabolism and its clinical relevance. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 62(2),

Amagase, H. (2006). Clarifying the real bioactive constituents of garlic. Journal of Nutrition, 136, 716

Amagase, H., Petesch, B. L., Matsuura, H., Kasuga, S., & Itakura, Y. (2001). Intake of garlic and its bioactive components. The Journal of Nutrition, 131,

Aqel, M. B., Gharaibah, M. N., & Salva, A. S. (1991). Direct relaxant effects of garlic juice on smooth and cardiac muscles. Journal Ethnopharmacology, 33, 13-19.

Arnault, I., & Auger, J. (2006). Seleno-compounds in garlic and onion. Journal of Chromatography A, 1112, 23-30.

Bakri, I. M., & Douglas, C. W. I. (2005). Inhibitory effect of garlic extract on oral bacteria. Archives of Oral Biology, 50(7), 645e-651.

Block, E. (1985). The chemistry of garlic and onions. Scientific American, 252, 114-119.

Borek, C. (1997). Antioxidants and cancer. Science & Medicine, 4, 51-62.

Brisdelli, F., Coccia, C., Cinque, B., Cifone, M. G., & Bozzi, A. (2007).Induction of apoptosis by quercetin: different response of human chronic myeloid (K562) and acute lymphoblastic (HSB-2) leukemia cells. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 296, 137-149.

Chang, M. L. W., & Johnson, M. A. (1980). Effect of garlic on lipid metabolism and lipid synthesis in rats. The Journal of Nutrition, 110, 931-936.

Davis, S. R. (2005). An overview on the antifungal properties of allicin and its breakdown products e the possibility of safe and effective antifungal properties. Mycoses, 48(2), 95-100.

Delaha, E. C., & Garagusi, V. F. (1985). Inhibition of mycobacterial by garlic extract (Allium sativum). Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 27, 485-486.

Dimitrios, B. (2006). Sources of natural phenolic antioxidants. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 17(9), 505-512.

El-Bayoumy, K., Chae, Y. H., Upadhyaya, P., & Ip, C. (1996). Chemoprevention of mammary cancer by diallyl selenide, a novel organoselenium compound. Anticancer Research, 16, 2911-2918.

El-Bayoumy, K., Sinka, R., Pinto, J. T., & Rivlin, R. S. (2006). Cancer chemoprevention by garlic and garlic-containing sulfur and selenium compounds. Journal of Nutrition, 136(3), 864S-869S.

Glasser, G., Graefe, E. U., Struck, F., Veit, M., & Gebhardt, R. (2002). Comparison of antioxidative capacities and inhibitory effects on cholesterol biosynthesis of quercetin and potential metabolites. Phytomedicine, 9, 33-40.

Goldman, I. L., Kopelberg, M., Debaene, J. E. P., & Schwartz, B. S.(1996). Antiplatelet activity of onion (Allium cepa) is Sulphur dependent. Thrombosis and Aemostasis, 76, 450-453.

Griffiths, G., Trueman, L., Crowther, T., Thomas, B., & Smith, B. (2002). Onions a global benefit to health. Phytotherapy Research, 16, 603-615.

Horie, T., Awazu, S., Itakura, Y., & Fuwa, T. (2001). Alleviation by garlic of antitumor drug-induced damage to the intestine. The Journal of Nutrition, 131, 1071S-1074S.

Khanum, F., Anilakumar, K. R., & Viswanathan, K. R. (2004). Anticarcinogenic properties of garlic: a review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 44(6), 479-488.

Lamm, D. L., & Riggs, D. R. (2001). Enhanced immunocompetence by garlic: role in bladder cancer and other malignancies. The Journal of Nutrition, 131, 1067S-1070S.

Lanzotti, V. (2006). The analysis of onion and garlic. Journal of Chromatography A, 1112, 3-22.

Lau, B. H. S., Tadi, P. P., & Tosk, J. M. (1990). Allium sativum (garlic) and cancer prevention. Nutrition Research, 10, 937-948.

Lautraite, S., Musonda, A. C., Doehmer, J., Edwards, G. O., & Chipman, J. K. (2002). Flavonoids inhibit genetic toxicity produced by carcinogens in cells expressing CYP1A2 and CYP1A1. Mutagenesis, 17, 45-53.

Le Marchand, L., Murphy, S. P., Hankin, J. H., Wilkens, L. R., & Kolonel, L. N. (2000). Intake of flavonoids and lung cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 92, 154-160.

Liu, L., & Yeh, Y. Y. (2000). Inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis by organosulfur compounds derived from garlic. Lipids, 35, 197-203.

Moon, J. H., Nakata, R., Oshima, S., Inakuma, T., & Terao, J. (2000). Accumulation of quercetin conjugates in blood plasma after the short-term ingestion of onion by women. American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 279, R461-R467.

Phay, N., Higashiyama, T., Tsuji, M., Matsuura, H., Fukushi, Y., Yokota, A., et al. (1999). An antifungal compound from roots of Welsh onion. Phytochemistry, 52, 271-274.

Pszczola, D. E. (2002). Antimicrobials: setting up additional hurdles to ensure food safety. Food and Technology, 56, 99-107.

Rahman, K., & Lowe, G. M. (2006). Garlic and cardiovascular disease: a critical review. Journal of Nutrition, 136, 736S-740S.

Ramos, F. A., Takaishi, Y., Shirotori, M., Kawaguchi, Y., Tsuchiya, K., Shibata, H., et al. (2006). Antibacterial and antioxidant activities of quercetin oxidation products from yellow onion (Allium cepa) skin. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54, 3551-3557.

Sakamoto, K., Lawson, L. D., & Milner, J. A. (1997). Allyl sulfides from garlic suppress the in vitro proliferation of human A549 lung tumor cells. Nutrition and Cancer, 29(2), 152-156.

Sellappan, S., & Akoh, C. C. (2002). Flavonoids and antioxidant capacity of Georgia-grown Vidalia onions. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 50, 5338-5342.

Tattelman, E. M. D. (2005). Health effects of garlic. American Family Physician, 72, 103-106.

Van Erk, M. J., Roepman, P., van der Lende, T. R., Stierum, R. H., Aarts, J. M. M. J. G., van Bladeren, P. J., et al. (2005). Integrated assessment by multiple gene expression analysis of quercetin bioactivity on anticancer-related mechanisms in colon cancer cells in vitro. European Journal of Nutrition, 44, 143-156.

Weisberger, A. S., & Pensky, J. (1958). Tumor inhibition by a sulfhydryl blocking agent related to an active principle of garlic (Allium sativum). Cancer Research, 18, 1301-1308.

M.J. Green
M.J. Green

M.J Green holds degrees in Chemistry, Biology, Criminal Justice. and Psychology.  She is a Biologist, Chemist, Criminalist, writer, and teacher. M.J is proud of her families current, and future military service to the USA.

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Garlic and Onions: Two Foods With a Medicinal Kick