Chemist explains why garlic is world’s most powerful antioxidant

January 31st, 2009 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Tornoto, Jan 31 (IANS) The organic compound Allicin is believed to give garlic its distinct aroma and flavour, which also acts as the world’s most powerful antioxidant. Until now it hasn’t been clear how Allicin works or how good it is compared with more common antioxidants like Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10.

“We didn’t understand how garlic could contain such an efficient antioxidant, since it didn’t have a substantial amount of the types of compounds usually responsible for high antioxidant activity in plants, such as the flavanoids found in green tea or grapes,” said Queen’s University chemistry professor Derek Pratt, who led the study.

The research team questioned the ability of Allicin to trap damaging radicals so effectively, and considered the possibility that a decomposition product of Allicin may instead be responsible.

Through experiments with synthetically-produced Allicin, they found that an acid is produced when the compound decomposes rapidly reacts with radicals.”Basically the allicin compound has to decompose in order to generate a potent antioxidant,” explained Pratt.

“Until now there has been no convincing explanation as to why garlic is beneficial,” said Pratt. “I think we have taken the first step in uncovering a fundamental chemical mechanism which may explain garlic’s medicinal benefits.”

Along with onions, leeks and shallots, garlic is a species in the family Alliaceae. All of these other plants contain a compound that is very similar to Allicin, but they do not have the same medicinal properties, according to a Queen’s release.

These findings were published in the January issue of Angewandte Chemie.

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