SCIENCE / MEDICINE : A Clove of Garlic a Day . . .


If you are worried about possible cancer caused by aflatoxin contaminants that may be present in peanut butter, perhaps you should put some garlic on your next sandwich, according to researchers from Loma Linda University. Aflatoxin is an extremely potent carcinogen--produced by a mold that can contaminate stored peanuts--that causes mutations in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, the blueprint of life) after it is activated by enzymes in the liver. Those mutations lead to cancer, especially liver cancer.

Microbiologists Benjamin Lau and Padma P. Tadi and physiologist Robert Teel found that sulfur-containing compounds in garlic could prevent the mutations caused by aflatoxin, as well as those caused by benzo(a)pyrene, a carcinogen commonly found in cigarette smoke, charcoal-broiled meat and polluted air.

In the test-tube studies, the garlic compounds also activated liver enzymes that destroyed the aflatoxin, the researchers found. Epidemiological studies conducted in China have previously shown that eating garlic may lower the incidence of stomach cancer.