by Annlee Ellingson
It feels so good to be outside this time of year. Whether you’re lounging at the pool, working in the garden or driving with the top down, the sun warms the soul as much as it warms your skin. However, as most of us now know, the same rays that are the source of so much delight during the summer months can also promote premature aging. But with a high-quality nutritional supplement, you can give your body an antioxidant boost to counteract the oxidizing effects of too much sunshine. Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) is an antioxidant powerhouse.
A SEASON OF FREE RADICALS
As much as we enjoy being outside in the sun during the summer, we must be aware that ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major creator of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have an unpaired electron.Electrons usually come in twos, so molecules with extra, unpaired electrons become unstable, seeking to steal an electron from another molecule. But when the second molecule loses one of its electrons, it too becomes unstable and seeks to steal an electron from yet another molecule. In the process, these free radicals knock up against cell walls, disrupt cell membranes, cause oxidation and even get inside cells. This vicious cycle wreaks damage on cell function and alters genetic material. The damage that free radicals inflict on skin cells can cause wrinkles, dull and dry skin, and dark circles under the eyes—all unattractive signs of accelerated aging. But we can prevent premature aging by putting a stop to the damage caused by free radicals with antioxidants that safely interact with unstable molecules and end the chain reaction that damages our cells.
ANTIOXID ANTS DERADICALIZE FREE RADICALS
Garlic, specifically AGE, has proven to be an effective antioxidant in the fight against free radicals. In the March 2011 issue of Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, researchers reported on a study that “examined the effectiveness of aged garlic extract (AGE)…and its component for scavenging of superoxide,” a form of oxygen with one extra electron. According to their research, “electron spin resonance showed that aged garlic extract scavenged superoxide radicals in a dose-dependent manner up to 54 percent.” In other words, “Aged garlic extract (3 mg/ml) significantly inhibited superoxide production in comparison to the control. These data suggest that aged garlic extract may be useful for preventing diseases associated with reactive oxygen species,” including aging.
Carmia Borek, PhD, also identified the antiaging properties of AGE in a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in March 2001. “Oxidative modification of DNA, proteins and lipids by reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a role in aging and disease,” said the research, conducted at the Department of Community Health and Family Medicine in the Nutrition and Infectious Diseases Unit at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA. ROS are molecules containing oxygen that are highly chemically reactive due to an extra, unpaired electron—i.e., free radicals.
Extracts of fresh garlic, or Allium sativum, that are aged over a prolonged period contain antioxidant phytochemicals that fight against oxidant damage. These antioxidant phytochemicals include unique water-soluble organosulfur compounds, lipid-soluble organosulfur components and flavonoids, notably allixin and selenium. Longterm extraction of garlic (up to 20 months) ages the extract, retaining garlic nutrients while creating antioxidant properties by modifying unstable molecules with antioxidant activity, such as allicin. This aging process also increases stable and highly bioavailable organosulfur compounds, such as Sallylcysteine and S allylmercaptocysteine—more antioxidant phytochemicals. And the aging process results in a truly odorless supplement. As a result, in addition to offering heart, brain, colon and other health benefits, AGE works as a powerful antioxidant, age-defying supplement by scavenging those pesky ROS, enhancing certain cellular antioxidant enzymes and increasing glutathione, another antioxidant, in cells. Moreover,“AGE may have a role in protecting against loss of brain function in aging and possess other anti-aging effects, as suggested by its ability to increase cognitive functions, memory and longevity in a senescence-accelerated mouse model,” Borek says. “Substantial experimental evidence shows the ability of AGE to protect against oxidant-induced disease, acute damage from aging, radiation and chemical exposure, and long-term toxic damage,” Borek’s study finds. “Although additional observations are warranted in humans, compelling evidence supports the beneficial health effects attributed to AGE, i.e., reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer and aging, including the oxidant-mediated brain cell damage that is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.”
AGE AND HGH
In addition to its antioxidant properties, AGE may help defy aging by contributing to the production of human growth hormone (HGH). According to a study published in the February 2002 issue of Growth Hormone & IGF Research and conducted by researchers in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University in California, the amount of HGH decreases significantly after age 30. “This decrease has been implicated as one of the major causes in the signs of aging, such as thinning of the skin and bones, a decrease in lean muscle mass and an increase in adipose tissue,” the report states. However, HGH replacement therapy is expensive, requires repeated injections and has been known to cause side effects such as “carpel tunnel syndrome, gynecomastia and insulin resistance.” The authors of the study explored alternatives to HGH replacement therapy and found “that a combination of equal amounts of l-arginine and llysine, aged garlic extracts-allyl cysteine and pycnogenol significantly increased secretion of HGH in this in vitro model.” AGE, it turns out, could be a useful weapon against aging on two fronts: as an antioxidant that intercepts free radicals and as part of a team of supplements that promote HGH secretion.
But garlic? That stinky, gastrointestinally irritating relative of the onion? That’s the key to anti-aging?Yes, garlic. All garlic supplements have some benefits;however, powders and oils contain few or no watersoluble compounds that may be essential to obtain some of the key benefits of garlic. They only contain some beneficial oil-soluble sulfur compounds, and they have a pungent garlic odor as well as harsh side effects. Even though these products may claim to be deodorized, the smell is really just masked by chemical or sugar coatings. When the capsules or tablets dissolve, garlic body odor results. But AGE goes through an aging process that eliminates odors and digestive problems while retaining—and concentrating—the plant’s medicinal substances. No more garlic breath. No more body odor. No more sour stomach, nausea or diarrhea. We don’t have to trade our comfort or social lives to reap the anti-aging benefits of garlic. And in supplemental form, its potency is much greater than what we could ever achieve by eating it as part of our regular diet.
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