A study announced last week reveals that a compound in garlic oil may protect the heart from damage following a heart attack or heart surgery.
Garlic has long been linked to cardiovascular health, thanks to a compound called allicin, which reacts with red blood cells and produces hydrogen sulphide that relaxes the blood vessels and keeps blood flowing easily.
Now a potent-smelling component of garlic oil called diallyl trisulphide (DATS) may help "release protective compounds to the heart," stated the researchers, who presented their findings on Wednesday at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida.
Scientists tested a synthetic, highly purified version of the compound on mice at risk of heart damage from blocked coronary arteries. In the study researchers from the Emory University School of Medicine were examining treatment options for cardiac patients, and their findings suggest that the treatment of hydrogen sulphide gas -- which is considered unstable and dissipates quickly -- could possible be replaced with injectable diallyl trisulphide, which helped reduce the amount of heart tissue damage by 61 percent.
"Interruption of oxygen and blood flow damages mitochondria, and loss of mitochondrial integrity can lead to cell death," said lead researcher David Lefer. "We see that diallyl sulphide can temporarily turn down the function of mitochondria, preserving them and lowering the production of reactive oxygen species."
The study supplies no evidence that consuming garlic could protect your health, but Lefer noted in an interview with ABC News that simply eating fresh garlic provides "a good dosage of DATS," which have also been shown to prohibit growth of cancerous tumors in mice studies.