Used for over three thousand years for conditions ranging from hemorrhoids to snake bites, modern scientists have confirmed the healing properties of garlic. This intense, aromatic, and flavorful culinary ingredient is well-known for its heart health and anticancer benefits.
A few decades ago, it even had a brief moment as one of the best-selling herbal remedies in the United States, because it reduces cholesterol.
It can even fight the common cold.
But until now, I’ve never heard it mentioned as a brain health booster. Maybe that’s about to change in a big way…
Recent discoveries have highlighted how imbalances within the large colony of bacterial species in the intestines is linked to a long list of conditions — obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and more. Yet few studies have explored the link to age-related health problems.
So scientists at the University of Louisville decided to probe this area. They presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society in April.
A member of the research team, Dr. Neetu Tyagi, explained that elderly people lose diversity in their gut microbes at the very same time they tend to develop neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – and just general decline in memory and cognitive abilities.
Dr. Tyagi said, “We want to better understand how changes in the gut microbiota relate to aging-associated cognitive decline.”
What Happens When Mice Eat Garlic
For their study, they added allyl sulfide — an organosulfur compound derived from garlic — to the diet of 24-month-old mice. In human years that’s between 56 and 69. These mice were compared to a control group that did not receive the garlic extract.
The mice that were not supplemented developed impairments in their spatial memory — meaning their ability to find their way round an environment and remember where things are within it.
But the group receiving the garlic compound displayed better short and long-term memory as well as healthier gut bacteria.
Further experiments found allyl sulfide was able to preserve neuron-derived neurotrophic factor (NDNF) gene expression in the brain. As long-time readers of this newsletter know, NDNF is one of the most important compounds for brain health.
The gene relevant to NDNF was recently discovered by the same research group to be important for implanting information into the memory.
When a technique was used that boosted the expression of NDNF in the brains of the unsupplemented mice, they got back their cognitive abilities.
An additional finding was that allyl sulfide produced hydrogen sulfide gas — a messenger molecule that prevents intestinal inflammation.
Summing up their work, lead researcher Jyotirmaya Behera said, “Our findings suggest that dietary administration of garlic containing allyl sulfide could help maintain healthy gut microorganisms and improve cognitive health in the elderly.”
AGE Might Prevent & Reverse Alzheimer’s
Allyl sulfide causes garlic breath. This puts off many people from eating the vegetable.
But allyl is one of more than 2000 biologically active substances in garlic. The other valuable compounds mean many of garlic’s brain benefits can still be enjoyed — minus its smell — by taking odorless aged garlic extract (AGE) as a supplement.
AGE has been shown to inhibit the formation of brain plaques, prevent neuroinflammation, promote better blood flow and increase overall brain matter.
Researchers at Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute in Bentley, Western Australia, even suggest garlic could hold the key to not only reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s but actually curing it.
Conquer Brain Inflammation
Professor Ryu Takechi and his team have been researching dementia for over a decade. They believe the disease occurs because of breaches in the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This allows harmful molecules, including beta-amyloid, to enter the brain and harm neurons.
The researchers found damage to the BBB was induced by inflammation and oxidative stress, and that this damage can be completely prevented with AGE.
Commenting on what makes garlic so special and why he takes AGE every day himself, Prof. Takechi said, “The major strength of garlic is in its unique cocktail mixture of a number of strong antioxidant compounds that are both water soluble and insoluble, compared to other pharmacological drugs or nutraceutical agents that contain just a single beneficial compound.”
So whether you enjoy eating food that contains garlic or prefer to keep well clear, you have the option to take odorless AGE and still reap an abundance of brain benefits.