We all know the alleged benefits of garlic.  It is supposed to protect us against cancer and heart disease, bacterial and viral infections, and do a whole host of other good things for us.

I don’t think there’s even any argument any more from conventional medicine that fresh garlic is a wonderful health giving plant substance.  The odd thing however is that garlic contains very few antioxidant substances.  Exactly why it has its powerful benefits therefore remains something of a mystery.

However, as I revealed in my 1993 book, Food Allergy and Environmental Illness, it does seem that the important ingredient is an organic compound called allicin.  This is the substance which gives garlic it’s highly characteristic pungent aroma.  And it does seem that if the garlic doesn’t smell, it doesn’t have any health benefits.

Now scientists have taken things a step further. Derek Pratt, a chemistry professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and his research team have found that the decomposition of allicin produces sulfenic acid, which rapidly reacts with radicals.

What the scientists have shown is that the allicin compound has to decompose in order to generate the potent antioxidant. Sulfenic acid it emerges, is one of the quickest acting antioxidants known.  Its superfast.

So now you know.  Garlic, I believe is one of the reasons for the success of the Mediterranean diet.  It is present in just about all Mediterranean dishes (however that’s just an opinion, you can ignore it if you wish).

But it seems clear that it’s better to smash the garlic than just chop it into slices.  If you crush the garlic clove, prior to adding it a food, that exposes it to maximum oxidation through to Sulfenic acid.

The study was published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

PS. if you don’t know what I mean by smash the garlic, I’m talking about laying a large flat knife over the clove and whacking it hard with the ball of your hand. That will crush it and enable you to just pick out the shreds of dry garlic skin. You can chop it a it after that, if you like. You should notice the juices running as you do. A garlic crusher does the same thing but just creates more washing up!