Dave Cureton, cancerpage.com(October 3, 2000) – An analysis of existing studies finds people who eat raw or cooked garlic on a regular basis may be cutting their risk of stomach cancer by half and their risk of colon cancer by one-third compared with those who eat little or no garlic.
The study, reported in the October 2000 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is a meta-analysis – or study of studies – based on 22 studies worldwide on garlic consumption and cancer risk that were drawn from a total of 300 on diet and cancer."What we essentially did," lead author Aaron T. Fleischauer told cancerpage.com, "was quantitatively synthesize the literature so that we were able to get a single number to describe the relationship between garlic and stomach and garlic and colon cancer.
"Fleischauer is a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.Co-author Dr. Charles Poole, an associate professor of epidemiology who focused on analytic aspects of the study, found that even when put on a common footing, results of these studies were "inconsistent" and there was evidence of "publication bias" – the tendency not to publish findings that either seem implausible or show little effect. (Listen to Poole's comments about the need for more research in RealAudio.)
The researchers found wide variations in garlic consumption, ranging up to nearly 29 grams per week, the equivalent of about one clove of garlic per day. Among those in the highest category of consumption, the average was 16 grams per week.
The researchers did not find sufficient data to draw any conclusions about garlic's possible effects on other cancers or about whether garlic supplements may have similar beneficial effects.
Fleischauer said garlic is believed to help prevent stomach cancer by acting against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium found in the stomach that is known to cause stomach cancer, and that a sulfur compound in garlic is probably the key element in that action.
Noting the limitations in this study, though, Fleischauer was cautious. "I would not feel comfortable saying that garlic prevents cancer. I would be much more conservative in saying that it looks positive. Certainly more research needs to be done." (Listen to Fleischauer's comments about his reservations in RealAudio.)
SOURCES:cancerpage.com interviews with with Aaron Fleischauer and Charles Poole. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2000; 72:1047-1052.
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