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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Science Lesson That Smells Like Garlic

This isn’t so much a comment about garlic as it is a science lesson.

Recently some of you have asked us to comment on an email about garlic that was sent to several of you. Below is a copy of the email in question:

Please note that there is not a link provided to checkout the source of this email. I found conflicting information about Dr. Beck’s academic credentials and could not verify his authorship of the following article entitled: GARLIC: TOXIC SHOCK.
[I am as surprised and shocked as you will be to hear such a respected scientist as Dr Bob Beck telling us that garlic is highly toxic. - Editor]

The reason garlic is so toxic, the sulphone hydroxyl ion penetrates the blood brain barrier, just like DMSO, and is a specific poison for higher life forms and brain cells.

We discovered this much to our horror, when I was the world's largest manufacturer of ethical EEG biofeedback equipment. We'd have people come back from lunch that looked clinically dead on the encephalograph, which we used to calibrate their progress. "Well, what happened?" " Well, I went to an Italian restaurant and there was some garlic in my salad dressing!".

So we had them sign things that they won't touch garlic before classes or we were wasting their time, and money and my time. I guess those of you who are pilots or have been in flight tests... I was in flight test engineering in Doc Hallan's group in the 1950's.

The flight surgeon would come around every month and remind all of us: "Don't you dare touch any garlic 72 hours before you fly one of our airplanes, because it'll double or triple your reaction time. You're three times slower than you would be if you'd [not] had a few drops of garlic."

Well, we didn't know why for 20 years later, until I owned the Alpha-Metrics Corporation. We were building biofeedback equipment and found out that garlic totally desynchronizes your brain waves.

So I funded a study at Stanford University and, sure enough, they found that it's a poison. You can rub a clove of garlic on your foot - on the sole of your foot - and you can smell it shortly later on your wrists. So it penetrates the body. This is why DMSO smells a lot like garlic: that sulphone hydroxyl ion penetrates all the barriers including the corpus callosum in the brain.

Any of you who are organic gardeners know that if you don't want to use DDT, garlic will kill anything in the way of insects.

Now, most people have heard most of their lives that garlic is good for you, and we put those people in the same class of ignorance as the mothers who at the turn of the century would buy morphine sulphate in the drugstore and give it to their babies to put them to sleep.

If you have any patients who have low-grade headaches or attention deficit [disorder], they can't quite focus on the computer in the afternoon, just do an experiment - you owe it to yourselves. Take those people off garlic and see how much better they get, very,very shortly.

And then let them eat a little garlic after about three weeks. They'll say: "My God, I had no idea that this was the cause of our problems." And this includes the de-skunked garlic's, Kyolic, some of the other products.Very unpopular, but I've got to tell you the truth.

It is interesting that if you consume garlic it affects your reflext times and energy levels. It's also interesting to note that the countries that are renowned for garlic consumption - Greece, Italy, etc - also shut down in the afternoon for siesta!

(Source: From a lecture by Dr Robert [Bob] C. Beck, DSc., given at the Whole Life Expo, Seattle, WA, USA, in March 1996)
Bob Beck also found in his research on human brain function in the 1980's that garlic has a detrimental effect on the brain and researching this further he learned that many yoga groups and philosophical teachings caution against the use of garlic and onions as they are known to interfere with meditation practices. Some aware individuals have actually described themselves as experiencing "brain fog" after having garlic.

1. This post is sometimes cited as “From Nexus Magazine Feb/Mar 2001” on garlic "toxicity" is a popular hoax post which you will find elsewhere on the internet, word-for-word complete with typos, bad grammar and unsophisticated wording. I find it very hard to believe that it appeared in any publication that had an editor and a proof reader.

2. “study at Stanford University” there is no citation for this study and Stanford has no record of such a study in its archives that I could find.

3. “totally desynchronizes your brain waves.” Does anybody know what this means or is it just scare tactic rhetoric?

4. An extensive examination of other research reveals the email shown above is the only source of information that “claims” a scientific basis for the toxicity of Garlic.

5. “shut down in the afternoon for siesta” There is lots of research about the health benefits of napping. I am reminded of the line from one of Rudyard Kipling’s poems; “Only mad dogs and Englishmen come out in the heat of the noonday sun.”

6. "We'd have people come back from lunch that looked clinically dead on an encephalograph, which we used to calibrate their progress.”Well, what happened?" "We'll, I went to an Italian restaurant and their (yes this is just one example of misspelling – also several grammatical errors) was some garlic in my salad dressing!" So we had'em sign things (unsophisticated phrase) that they wouldn't touch garlic before classes or were wasting their time, their money and my time. "
This is an exaggeration, if not deliberately false. This isn’t how scientists talk. If you looked dead on an EEG it would be flat. No activity. They obviously weren't.
Also, if this was true most of the countries bordering the Mediterranean would be dysfunctional and the accident rate of Alitalia (Italian) Airlines would be dramatically skewed, Ferrari would be the world’s worst automobile, and there would be no such thing as famous Italian scientists, artists, or opera singers.
There are several sources that claim garlic is dangerous that have a religious basis for the claim. It has been seen as stimulant or aphrodisiac and arouses “the lower chakras.”

Mostly, this has to do with Ayurvedic diet philosophy and eating foods to consciously balance your body's energy (whatever that means) and to detoxify


Another important scientific principle is that one should never draw a conclusion on the basis of a single study. A “meta-analysis” of the available studies on the subject is necessary to form a valid conclusion.
For instance, here is what the Mayo clinic says in one report:

Garlic (Allium sativum L.)
Natural Standard® Patient Monograph, Copyright © 2009 ( All Rights Reserved. Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Numerous controlled trials have examined the effects of oral garlic on serum lipids. Long-term effects on lipids or cardiovascular morbidity and mortality remain unknown. Other preparations (such as enteric-coated or raw garlic) have not been well studied.

Small reductions in blood pressure (<10mmHg), inhibition of platelet aggregation, and enhancement of fibrinolytic activity have been reported, and may exert effects on cardiovascular outcomes, although evidence is preliminary in these areas.

Numerous case-control/population-based studies suggest that regular consumption of garlic (particularly unprocessed garlic) may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, including gastric and colorectal malignancies. However, prospective controlled trials are lacking.

Use this Google search term for many more: garlic

Several studies from the Mayo Clinic are a good start but it is advisable to have more than one source for your research, so here are some more available studies:
Studies show that garlic promotes cardiovascular health by helping to retain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels when used as part of a diet low in fat and cholesterol.¹ Allicin, a compound found in garlic, has been shown to be responsible for many beneficial actions, including the support for the maintenance of healthy levels of beneficial microorganisms. ¹ Silagy C, Neil A. Garlic as a lipid lowering agent—a meta-analysis. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians London. 1996; 30:329-334.
By 1996, there were over 1800 scientific studies that reported on the uses of garlic, and the studies continue to be performed.(1) One of the biggest concerns about garlic is whether it is still active by the time it gets to the shelf for purchase. It is important to select a garlic product that guarantees potency. Raw garlic is more potent than cooked garlic, because heat inactivates the enzyme allinase. Allinase gives garlic its odor and stimulates the formation of allicin. There are odorless garlic preparations, which provide alliin, a precursor to allicin. Alliin is converted (to some extent) to allicin in the body and allows for activity without the characteristic scent. Ethnocultural studies have shown that cultures with a high garlic intake have an inverse relationship to their cultures' cancer rates.(2)

Toxicities & Precautions
GeneralNo toxicity is reported in recommended dosages.(3) It is not recommended that large doses of garlic be ingested over a long period of time.(4)

1 Blumenthal M, et al. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:139-148.2 Dorant E, et al. Garlic and Its Significance for the Prevention of Cancer in Humans: A Critical View. Br J Cancer. 1993;67:424-29. View Abstract
3 Nakagawa S, et al. Acute Toxicity Test of Garlic Extract. J Toxicol Sci. 1984;9:155-69.View Abstract
4 Rakel: Conn's Current Therapy 2001, 53rd ed. W B Saunders Company; 2001:1267. 5 Berthold HK, Sudhop T, von Bergmann K. Effect of garlic oil preparation on serum lipoproteins and cholesterol metabolism: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. Nov1998;279(23):1900-2.View Abstract
7/3/2008A Meta-Analysis on Garlic and Hypertension.Source: BMC Cardiovascular Disorders Date Added:7/3/2008 9:12:00 AMDate to be Archived:7/3/2018
Hypertension is a type of cardiovascular disease characterized by elevation of blood pressure above the level considered normal for people of similar racial and environmental backgrounds. When blood pressure is taken on two or more subsequent days and reads 140/90 or above this is considered to be high blood pressure. Because it affects the entire circulatory system, hypertension can be detrimental to all the major organs, including the heart, brain, and kidneys. It may contribute to death from heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, and even kidney failure. One in five Americans (and one in three adults) has high blood pressure.

From immune enhancement to cancer prevention, garlic may support health in many ways. What many people don’t know, however, is that there is some controversy about the most effective form of garlic people should take. One of the biggest concerns about garlic is whether it is still active by the time it gets to the shelf for purchase. It is important to select a garlic product that guarantees potency. Keep in mind that raw garlic is more potent than cooked garlic, because heat inactivates the enzyme allinase. Allinase gives garlic its odor and stimulates the formation of allicin, which scientists believe may be the key to garlic’s health-enhancing properties. Many studies have suggested that garlic may aid in the prevention of such major cardiovascular conditions as heart disease, atherosclerosis, and stroke. These benefits are probably due to garlic’s ability to lower total cholesterol, LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and triglycerides, and increase HDL cholesterol, the so-called "good" cholesterol.

A systemic review and meta-analysis was performed to determine whether garlic preparations have any effect on blood pressure. Randomized controlled trials from 1955 through October 2007 with true placebo groups, using garlic-only preparations, and reporting mean systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure and standard deviations were included in the meta-analysis. Twenty five studies were reviewed with a total of eleven being suitable for the meta-analysis. The meta-analysis results found an average decrease of 8.4mmHg in systolic blood pressure and a decrease of 7.3mmHg in diastolic blood pressure. It was also determined that garlic has a hypotensive effect on people with normal blood pressure, with a systolic reduction of around 4.6mmHg. These results are comparable to those achieved with commonly prescribed ACE-inhibitors and beta-blockers. The authors concluded that since garlic preparations are more effective than placebo in lowering blood pressure and are highly tolerable that it may provide an acceptable alternative or complementary treatment option for hypertension.1
1 Ried K, Frank OR, Stocks NP, et al. Effect of garlic on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Cariovasc Disord. Jun2008;8(1):13.
Search for Articles
1. Garlic Supplementation in the Treatment of Hypertension. (6/3/2008) Date Added: 6/3/2008 9:32:00 AM
2. Herbal treatment in Otitis Media. (5/13/2003) Date Added: 5/13/2003
3. Prostate cancer and allium vegetable intake. (11/12/2002) Date Added: 11/18/2002
4. Alternative medicines used by diabetics. (3/12/2001) Date Added: 11/21/2001
5. Selenium in broccoli has cancer-protective effects. (5/21/2001) Date Added: 11/21/2001
I think you get the general idea. Don’t trust an email without citations. Don’t even trust an email that has citations. Check them out for yourself. Look for peer reviewed studies; those which have passed the scrutiny of independent experts in the field before publication in scientific journals. Find several sources for your research before you draw a conclusion.
Also, don’t turn science into a religion. Science is very fallible.
Most scientific papers are probably wrong news service
Kurt Kleiner
Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.
John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

"We should accept that most research findings will be refuted. Some will be replicated and validated. The replication process is more important than the first discovery," Ioannidis says.
In the paper, Ioannidis does not show that any particular findings are false. Instead, he shows statistically how the many obstacles to getting research findings right combine to make most published research wrong.

Massaged conclusions
Traditionally a study is said to be "statistically significant" if the odds are only 1 in 20 that the result could be pure chance. But in a complicated field where there are many potential hypotheses to sift through - such as whether a particular gene influences a particular disease - it is easy to reach false conclusions using this standard. If you test 20 false hypotheses, one of them is likely to show up as true, on average.

Odds get even worse for studies that are too small, studies that find small effects (for example, a drug that works for only 10% of patients), or studies where the protocol and endpoints are poorly defined, allowing researchers to massage their conclusions after the fact.

Surprisingly, Ioannidis says another predictor of false findings is if a field is "hot", with many teams feeling pressure to beat the others to statistically significant findings.

But Solomon Snyder, senior editor at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, US, says most working scientists understand the limitations of published research.

"When I read the literature, I'm not reading it to find proof like a textbook. I'm reading to get ideas. So even if something is wrong with the paper, if they have the kernel of a novel idea, that's something to think about," he says.

Journal reference: Public Library of Science Medicine (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124)
If you liked this science lesson, please express your thanks with gifts of food that has extra garlic. I like onions too.

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