Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) – Part I: The Different Forms of
Garlic and Why AGE Is A Better Health Choice
Michael Garko, Ph.D.
Host – Let’s Talk Nutrition
As early as 5,000 years ago, garlic (Allium sativum) began to find its way into the cultures and everyday life of ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Northern Europe and China. Although it was native to Central Asia, the medicinal purposes and properties of garlic eventually became known throughout the known world and celebrated in pre- and recorded history.
In folklore, garlic was attributed with the ability to bring good luck, protect against evil forces, serve as an aphrodisiac, repel scorpions and ward off/repel sorcerers, werewolves, warlocks and vampires (mostly because of its odorous quality), among other things. Beyond its alleged fantastical abilities, garlic was recognized in ancient cultures and those following them to possess certain medicinal powers (see Pizzorno & Murray, 1996; Wikipedia, 2010; Zimmerman, 2010). For example, garlic was used to treat such conditions as bladder infections, bacterial infections from wounds, respiratory disorders, intestinal disorders and conditions such as diarrhea, dysentery and flatulence, worms, skin diseases, hysteria, diphtheria, vaginitis, among other ailments. It was also used to increase strength and life-energy (i.e., chi), improve blood circulation and provide protection against the plague during the Middle Ages (see Pizzorno & Murray, 1996; Wikipedia, 2010; Zimmerman, 2010).
Some may believe intuitively that eating fresh, raw garlic is a better nutritional and health alternative than consuming a garlic supplement. However, this belief has not been supported by scientific research. As it turns out and while it may be surprising to learn, garlic does not need to be eaten in a fresh, raw state in order for it to be effective, medicinally speaking (Borek, 2001). This is especially true when the dietary garlic supplement is in the form of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract manufactured by Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd. Hundreds of studies show that Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) provides not only the same health benefits as fresh garlic but goes beyond what fresh raw garlic offers in terms of health-promoting effects.
The February, 2010, edition of Healthful Hints is the first in a series on AGE. In this issue, five different forms of garlic will be discussed.
Five Forms of Garlic
Raw Fresh Garlic
History teaches that fresh raw garlic provides healthful benefits but consuming it comes with a pungent odor. It also has the potential to cause indigestion if consumed in large quantities with the intention of experiencing its medicinal effects. That being said, one of the health benefits of eating raw fresh garlic (assuming it is consumed in large amounts and can be tolerated gastro-intestinally) is its cardiovascular protective effects such as lowering blood cholesterol levels, inhibiting the aggregation of blood platelets and dissolving blood clots (see Borek, 2000; Kleijnen et al., 1989).
In addition to its cardiovascular protective effects, raw garlic cloves once they are ground or sliced can be applied topically on wounds. Allicin, a by-product of the enzymatic catalyzing of alliin by alliinase, has the ability to kill bacteria and prevent infections. Yet, while it possesses anti-bacterial-anti-infection potential, allicin can also damage external and internal tissue on contact, thereby, limiting its topical application and internal consumption (Kyolic, 2010a).
Thus, although raw fresh garlic does provide cardiovascular when consumed in large quantities and anti-bacterial-anti-infection benefits when applied topically, fresh raw garlic comes with the unpleasant side-effects of offensive odor, indigestion and tissue damage, all of which diminishes its medicinal benefits.
However, consuming garlic, especially in large amounts to achieve therapeutic benefit, is problematic because of its pungent odor which tends to linger on the breath and skin and, thereby, acts as a social deterrent and because of its potential to cause gastrointestinal problems, including indigestion. It well-established that once garlic cloves are cut or crushed the enzyme alliinase catalyzes the chemical reaction converting alliin to allicin.
Allicin was once believed to be the compound giving garlic its medicinal properties. However, scientific studies have established that allicin is an unstable, reactive/oxidative compound. It is responsible for garlic’s strong odor and capacity to trigger digestive discomfort. In addition, allicin lacks bioavailability once inside the body.
Garlic Essential Oil
Garlic essential oil is produced when fresh garlic is crushed and subjected to steam distillation. It is important to point out that garlic oil is constituted more of vegetable oils and only a small fraction of the garlic’s health-producing oil-soluble sulfides and virtually no water-soluble sulfur compounds. According to Borek (2000), garlic oil is diluted approximately 200-fold with vegetable oils being used to diminish the overpowering odor of volatile oil-soluble sulfides found in garlic. The pungent odor of the crushed garlic would be too overwhelming for health consumers, if commercially produced garlic oil consisted only of garlic. Thus, garlic oil is not a robust and useful source of garlic’s health-giving effects.
Garlic Oil Macerate
Garlic oil macerate is produced in two forms both of which are packaged in soft gel capsules. One product form is a mixture of garlic flavoring powder mixed with vegetable oil. This form is similar to garlic powder packaged in tablets and capsules. Another product form of garlic oil macerate is grounded raw garlic in vegetable oil. This form has a potent garlic odor because it contains oil-soluble compounds (allicin break down products) and residual alliin. Both product forms of garlic oil macerate are high in fat. Consequently, they are not suitably healthy for use as a dietary supplement on a daily or regular basis.
Garlic powder is made when garlic cloves are sliced or crushed then oven-dried and pulverized into powder. Drying the garlic at high temperatures (i.e., above 158 F) inactivates the enzyme alliinase, which is responsible for converting alliin into allicin (see Borek, 2000).
Allicin was believed to be the compound in garlic responsible for its medicinal values. As it turns out, allicin is a highly volatile, oxidative compound produced when garlic is sliced or crushed causing the cells to rupture. Furthermore, allicin lacks bioavailability and decreases to non-detectable amounts in the body after a short period of time. It is only beneficial when it is applied topically. Just as it protects the garlic plant when it is injured from insects and fungi, allicin when applied externally to the skin will protect against fungi and bacteria. However, the internal use of allicin for medicinal purposes is subject to question (see Kyolic, 2010b).
No garlic powder product or any other garlic supplement product is capable of containing allicin because of its chemical instability. Furthermore, garlic powder contains not only inactivated alliinase but also only a small or residual amount of alliin because more than half of it is lost during the manufacturing process. While some garlic powder products contain alliin and alliinase, the claim that these products possess “allicin yield” or “allicin activity” is suspect because there is no compelling clinical evidence to support the hypothesis that alliinase will convert alliin to allicin once in the body (see Kyolic, 2010b). Thus, while mass produced, commercial garlic powder serves an effective food flavoring agent, it does not provide any known scientifically supported medicinal benefits.
Aged Garlic Extract
AGE is a form of garlic created using extraction and a proprietary process of aging. Long before it is subjected to extraction and aging process, the garlic is grown on selected farms following strictly controlled organic conditions. No chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used in the farming of the garlic. The garlic is harvested, cleaned, sliced and stored in stainless steel tanks under carefully controlled conditions without the use of a heating process. The garlic is stored in the stainless steel tanks for up to 20 months in an aqueous ethanol solution, which helps to extract and age the garlic compounds.
The proprietary aging process produces an odorless preparation and converts the harsh, unstable organosulfur compounds in garlic (e.g., allicin) into milder and more beneficial compounds including water-soluble, sulfur-containing, antioxidant rich amino acids such as S-allylcysteine (SAC), S-allyl mercaptocysteine (SMAC) and Maillard reaction products. It is worth noting that SAC has a 98% absorption rate into the blood giving it robust bioavailability. SAC is the key compound in AGE and is used to standardize it (see Borek, 2000; Kyolic 2010b; Kyolic 2010c). It is also worth noting that the entire production process in making AGE (i.e., Kyolic) is subject to 250 stringent quality checks to ensure its safety and efficacy, all of which conforms to international GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) guidelines (see Kyolic 2010c).
The chemical conversion brought about the aging process results in eliminating the pungent odor of the garlic and providing AGE with its various health–promoting benefits, without the unpleasant side effects (i.e., offensive odor and potential indigestion) of fresh raw garlic. AGE also contains small amounts of oil-soluble organosulfur compounds, along with flavanoids and selenium, among other health-giving nutrients. Generally speaking, oil-soluble sulfur compounds tend to be odorous, while water-soluble compounds are odorless. Furthermore, water-soluble compounds are such that they are more stable and safer than oil-soluble compounds (see Kyolic, 2010d).
Garlic, as a whole food, has an illustrious history of medicinal use and benefits. It holds a prestigious ranking among foods to help prevent disease and promote health and well-being in cultures around the world.
Raw fresh garlic, garlic oil, garlic macerate and garlic powder are traditional ways in which garlic has been consumed in different cultures. Their contributions to the culinary arts are well-known and enjoyed.
However, when it is compared to these more traditional forms of garlic, AGE is superior in that it is (1) less harsh and irritating to bodily tissues, (2) less distressing to the digestive system, (3) less pungent and socially offensive, (4) less caloric (especially compared to garlic oil products) (5) less constituted of oil-soluble compounds and more comprised of water-soluble compounds and (6) less bound to folklore and more supported by science with respect to its health-promoting effects.
Therefore, if one is seeking to capitalize upon or otherwise take advantage of the health-giving gifts of AGE, then the Kyolic brand would be an intelligent and informed dietary supplement choice. Currently, as of 2009, there are 650 peer-reviewed studies on Kyolic AGE.
The various scientifically supported health-giving effects of AGE will be explored in an upcoming issue of Healthful Hints. Particular attention will be devoted to AGE’s cardioprotective effects, liver protective and detoxification effects, immune enhancement and anti-infection effects, anti-oxidative and radioprotective effects, anti-stress and anti-fatigue effects, anti-cancer and cancer-preventive effects and anti-aging effects.
Given all of its scientifically supported health benefits, Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract can play an important role in successful aging.
Borek, C. (2001). Antioxidant health effects of aged garlic extract. Journal of Nutrition, 131, 1010S-1015S.
Borek, C. (2000). Garlic: 4 varieties for health. Health Science News, March. Retrieved January 25, 2010 from http://www.newhope.com/nutritionsciencenews/NSN_backs/Mar_00/garlic.cfm?path=print
Kleijnen J. et al. (1989). Garlic, onions and cardiovascular risk factors: a review of the evidence from human experiments with emphasis on commercially available preparations. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 28, (5), 535-544).
Kyolic (n.d.). Aged garlic extract: Scientifically supported traditional use of garlic. Retrieved January, 25, 2010a, from http://www.kyolic.com/research/truth-about-garlic/aged-garlic-extract-scientifically-supported-traditional-use-of-garlic/
Kyolic (n.d.). Allicin, transient compound in garlic. Retrieved January 25, 2010b, from http://www.kyolic.com/faq/about-allicin/allicin-transient-compound-in-garlic/
Kyolic (n.d.). The Kyolic story. Retrieved January, 25, 2010c from http://www.kyolic.com/faq/kyolic-story/the-kyolic-story/
Kyolic (n.d.). The chemistry garlic – key compounds in garlic. Retrieved on January 25, 2010d from http://www.kyolic.com/research/truth-about-garlic/chemistry-of-garlic-key-compounds-in-garlic/
Pizzorno, J.E. & Murray, M.T. (1996). A textbook of natural medicine (Vol. 1). Bothell, WA: Bastyr University Publications.
Wikipedia, (n.d.). Garlic. Retrieved on January 25, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic
Zimmerman, K. (n.d.). History of garlic around the world. Retrieved November 13, 2006 from http://garlic festival.com/Rx/worldhistory.htm.
1 Throughout this newsletter Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) will be used to mean Wakunaga of America’s Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract, trademarked dietary supplement product.