Garlic has been used traditionally throughout the centuries to support the body’s immune defenses to overcome sickness and to help increase energy level and vigor. Today, medical research confirms many of these health effects and more Specifically, natural, odorless aged garlic extract (AGE) shows more effectiveness than fresh bulbs of garlic in helping protect against disease and age-related conditions.
The most popular AGE supplement on the market is made from organically grown garlic by Wakunaga of America and goes by the name Kyolic®. Through a long process of extraction and aging at room temperature, the harsh volatile substances found in fresh garlic are converted to beneficial stable compounds, thereby increasing the levels of antioxidants above those in the fresh bulb. This gives AGE its power. AGE has been shown in clinical and preclinical studies to lower the risk of a wide range of diseases including cancer and cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and neurodegenerative diseases; prevent the toxicity of free radical-producing drugs and radiation, including UV; and enhance immunity.
Our Immune System and Health
Much of our health depends on an intact and vigorous immune system that protects against infectious bacteria, viruses, fungi and the development of cancer. A compromised immune system may enable bacteria and viruses that we encounter to trigger illnesses—and sometimes serious diseases that can lead to death.
In most cases our immune systems can handle a stunning variety of pathogens and microbes and overcome inflammation, but there is always a battle between a pathogen and the immune response, and once it goes into high gear, the winning side will determine if the result will be sickness or health. Our goal is to maintain a fortified immune system in order to protect us from invading microorganisms that cause colds and flu and combat inflammation, now known to play a critical role in cardiovascular disease as well as in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
The immune system is complex and multilayered. Inflammation is one of its first responses to infection and involves the release of substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which attract white blood cells (leukocytes) and interferon that do the fighting.
Leukocytes comprise a wide range of immune cells, including phagocytes (macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells) that engulf foreign invaders; mast cells that reside in connective tissues and mucous membranes and regulate the inflammatory response most often associated with allergies; and natural killer cells (NK), which attack and destroy cancer cells and cells infected by viruses.
A subclass of the leukocytes are the B and T lymphocytes. T cells include killer T cells, whose function is to kill cells infected with viruses and other pathogens, and helper T cells, whose action is to determine which types of immune responses the body will make to a particular pathogen.
AGE Enhances Immunity
AGE has been shown in a wide range of preclinical and clinical studies to enhance the immune response, helping to mitigate infectious diseases, restore healthy inflammation levels and protect against the proliferation of abnormal cells. AGE intake has been found to enhance the phagocytic (cell-killing) activity of macrophages, increase T lymphocyte activity, increase the number and activity of NK cells and have anti-cancer effects. AGE also was found to inhibit the release of allergy-causing histamine and promote healthy inflammation levels by suppressing prostaglandins and enhancing interferon.
A randomized double-blind clinical study published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Nutrition showed that AGE administered to patients with inoperable colorectal, liver or pancreatic cancer resulted in a significant increase in the number and activity of the NK cells.
A study on AIDS patients with lower levels of
NK cells that was published in the April 1989 issue
of the German Journal of Oncology showed that
AGE enhanced NK cells and helper T cells. The researchers
reported that after a six-week intake of
AGE at 1,800 mg/day, the level of NK cells rose to
that of the healthy individuals! Helper T cells were
also increased, and patients showed improvement
in a variety of conditions, including herpes and candida
infections and diarrhea.
AGE Protects Against UV-induced Immunosuppression
Studies in Australia on human volunteers have
shown that immunosuppression by exposure to UV
(ultraviolet) irradiation may be associated with increased
incidences of skin cancer.
AGE has been found to quell the immunosuppressive
effects of UV radiation. In a preclinical
study published in the December 1993 issue of Photochemical
Photobiology using contact hypersensitivity
as the immune response, the authors observed
that immunosuppression, induced by moderate exposure
to UVB radiation (58 percent suppression)
declined dramatically to 19 percent with the intake
of AGE. The preclinical studies offer the possibility
that AGE may also help protect humans against
UV-induced immunosuppression, with a potential to
lower the risk of skin cancer.
AGE Promotes Healthy Inflammation Levels
Oxidative damage and inflammation, in which
prostaglandins play an important role, have been
linked to the development of cancer, neurodegenerative
disease and cardiovascular disease; AGE
has been associated with the reduction of certain
prostaglandins. In a clinical study published in
the February 2002 issue of the Journal of Nutrition
on nonsmokers and smokers, it was reported
that dietary supplementation with AGE for 14 days
showed reduced plasma and urine concentrations
of prostaglandin 8-iso-PGF(2 alpha) by 29 percent
and 37 percent, respectively, in nonsmokers and
by 35 percent and 48 percent in smokers. Fourteen
days after cessation of dietary supplementation,
plasma and urine concentrations of 8-iso-PGF(2
alpha) returned to values that were no different
from those before AGE consumption in both smokers
and nonsmokers. The study indicates that AGE
may help decrease proinflammatory substances
and that AGE intake should be continuous in order
to maintain protection.
AGE, Colds and Flu
The findings of a new clinical trial, presented in
April 2011 at the Experimental Biology meetings in
Washington, D.C., showed that AGE appears to be
a powerful immunoprotector against colds and flu.
In the double-blind placebo-controlled study, performed
by Dr. Susan Percival and colleagues, 120
healthy volunteers, ages 21 to 50, received either
2.56 grams/day AGE (60 volunteers) or placebo (60
volunteers) for three months during the cold and flu
season. Immune function was assessed by measuring
NK cells and T cells; the effects of AGE compared
to placebo on inflammation were determined
by measuring the levels of inflammatory markers,
which included interferon, tumor necrosis factor
(TNF), interleukin 12 and C-reactive protein.
The investigators found that with the AGE volunteers,
the severity of colds and flu was significantly
less compared to placebo, though incidence was
no different. AGE appeared to enhance immunity
by increasing the levels and activities of T and NK
cells as the first line of immune defense, enhance
the activity of glutathione in lymphocytes, and significantly
reduce inflammation markers.
This latest clinical study indicates that AGE
holds promise as a powerful weapon against colds
and flu due to its ability to support the body’s immune