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Posted February 12, 2014: by Bill Sardi
It is often important to find the best form of a vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement in order to achieve the desired health benefits promised in scientific studies.
For example, there is a hidden plague of vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency which has arisen in an era when consumption of refined sugars and popular beverages (coffee, tea, alcohol) have increased – all which block absorption of thiamin even though it is fortified in foodstuffs. Benfotiamine, the fat-soluble form of thiamin, achieves superior results over water-soluble thiamin as it is absorbed regardless of the thiamin-blockers in the diet.
Another example is magnesium, a critically short-supplied mineral in the diet. The most economical magnesium supplement is mag oxide which is only 4% absorbed. It shouldn’t even be sold but naïve consumers like the lower price.
When consuming herbal supplements, there are details that often escape the uneducated consumer, particularly dosage and also concentration. For example, resveratrol, known as a red wine molecule, is available as a dietary supplement. Resveratrol is primarily derived from Giant Knotweed in supplements rather than from grapes.
There is a minor ingredient in Giant Knotweed called emodin that provokes uncontrolled diarrhea in some patients. Unless the concentration of resveratrol is 80%+, some consumers are likely to develop diarrhea. Also, resveratrol is beneficial in a narrow dose range (~100-350 milligrams) acting as an antioxidant but promotes oxidation at higher doses. There are some 1000 mg resveratrol pills on the market. So when buying resveratrol, check dosage.
In regard to garlic pills, the task of determining which garlic pill provides garlic’s primary active ingredient, allicin, becomes a daunting task.
To begin, almost everyone is convinced that garlic is good for health. That includes garlic cloves, garlic powder, garlic oil, and garlic pills. And there is some truth to that. Garlic provides important nutrients such as sulfur and selenium and even a very absorbable form of vitamin B1 (thiamin) called allithiamin.
But the primary active ingredient in garlic is allicin, a transient molecule that is only produced when fresh cloves of garlic are crushed, mixing an enzyme alliinase with alliin to produce allicin. Allicin is considered the most volatile, odorous and pungent molecule found in nature. Allicin provokes production of hydrogen sulfide and nitric oxide gases which dilate (widen) blood vessels and send healthy signals throughout the body.
The pungency of allicin activates a gene triggering factor called Nrf2 that in turn activates internal enzymatic antioxidant defenses in the body (glutathione, catalase, superoxide dismutase). This activation of internal antioxidants is considered by many biologists to be the most profound health-promoting effect in the human body, prolonging healthspan and lifespan.
Allicin must be produced outside of the digestive tract as stomach acid degrades alliinase and negates any production of allicin. Thoroughly crushing a clove before it is ingested reliably produces allicin, but it is so pungent that it can create a burning sensation in the esophagus and stomach lining.
There are also many allicin pretenders. Labels on garlic pills may say “allicin yield” or “allicin potential.” What that means is that allicin can be produced if the alliinase enzyme is not destroyed. These garlic products are tested in a lab dish with neutral pH water and do produce allicin. But when tested in acetic acid (vinegar) to simulate the acidic stomach, little allicin is produced. So most garlic pills labeled to produce allicin really produce little at all.
Then there are enteric-coated garlic pills, designed for delayed release of garlic powder in the less acidic intestines. But this technology assumes transit time is about the same for most people. In fact, these enteric-coated capsules may release garlic powder in the stomach, intestines or even pass all the way through the digestive tract without allicin production. Enteric coated garlic pills may be unreliable. Even if enteric-coated garlic pills open up in the less acid intestines, it still doesn’t produce as much allicin as a fresh-crushed clove of garlic outside the body.
The most reliably tested technology to deliver allicin in dietary supplements is an alkaline buffered garlic pill (Garlizyme™) designed to neutralize stomach acid long enough for alliinase to enzymatically activate allicin.
There is another garlic pill that claims it is “100% pure allicin,” providing 100 milligrams of stabilized allicin. If that were true, the pill couldn’t possibly be tolerated. Tests show that product provides ~250 micrograms of allicin per tablet, about one tenth that of a fresh crushed clove of garlic.
For comparison, the alkaline buffered garlic pill (Garlizyme™) provides 2400-2800 of micrograms of allicin per capsule.
Allicin is an old molecule that addresses many modern day health challenges. For over five decades it has been known that allicin is the active principle in garlic. If it can be reliably and economically delivered, it would be a godsend for many. © 2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health Inc.