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Concept: Allium


The Allium genus includes garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. These vegetables are popular in cuisines worldwide and are valued for their potential medicinal properties. Epidemiological studies, while limited in their abilities to assess Allium consumption, indicate some associations of Allium vegetable consumption with decreased risk of cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Limited intervention studies have been conducted to support these associations. The majority of supportive evidence on Allium vegetables cancer preventive effects comes from mechanistic studies. These studies highlight potential mechanisms of individual sulfur-containing compounds and of various preparations and extracts of these vegetables, including decreased bioactivation of carcinogens, antimicrobial activities, and redox modification. Allium vegetables and their components have effects at each stage of carcinogenesis and affect many biological processes that modify cancer risk. This review discusses the cancer preventive effects of Allium vegetables, particularly garlic and onions, and their bioactive sulfur compounds and highlights research gaps.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Garlic, Allium, Vegetable, Onion, Shallot, Leek


We carried out a 6-year study to assess the effect of conventional, organic, and mixed cultivation practices on bioactive compounds (flavonoids, anthocyanins) and antioxidant capacity in onion. Total flavonoids, total anthocyanins, individual flavonols, individual anthocyanins, and antioxidant activity were measured in two varieties (‘Hyskin’ and ‘Red Baron’) grown in a long-term split-plot factorial systems comparison trial. This is the first report of repeated measurements of bioactive content over an extensive time period in a single crop type within the same trial. Antioxidant activity (DPPH and FRAP), total flavonol content, and levels of Q 3,4' D and Q 3 G were higher in both varieties under fully organic compared to fully conventional management. Total flavonoids were higher in ‘Red Baron’ and when onions were grown under organic soil treatment. Differences were primarily due to different soil management practices used in organic agriculture rather than pesticide/ herbicide application.

Concepts: Agriculture, Antioxidant, Garlic, Allium, Quercetin, Flavonoid, Flavonols, Onion


Although garlic (Allium sativum) has been extensively studied for its health benefits, sprouted garlic has received little attention. We hypothesized that sprouting garlic would stimulate the production of various phytochemicals that improve health. Ethanolic extracts from garlic sprouted for different periods had variable antioxidant activities when assessed with in vitro assays, including the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl radical scavenging activity assay and the oxygen radical absorbance capacity assay. Extracts from garlic sprouted for 5 days had the highest antioxidant activity, whereas extracts from raw garlic had relatively low antioxidant activity. Furthermore, sprouting changed the metabolite profile of garlic: the metabolite profile of garlic sprouted for 5 to 6 days was distinct from the metabolite profile of garlic sprouted for 0 to 4 days, which is consistent with the finding that garlic sprouted for 5 days had the highest antioxidant activity. Therefore, sprouting may be a useful way to improve the antioxidant potential of garlic.

Concepts: Nutrition, Antioxidant, Garlic, Allium, Enzyme assay, Oxygen radical absorbance capacity, Onion, Allium vineale


Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used as a medicinal food since ancient times. However, some people are reluctant to ingest raw garlic due to its unpleasant odor and taste. Therefore, many types of garlic preparations have been developed to reduce these attributes without losing biological functions. Aged black garlic (ABG) is a garlic preparation with a sweet and sour taste and no strong odor. It has recently been introduced to Asian markets as a functional food. Extensive in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated that ABG has a variety of biological functions such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, anti-allergic, cardioprotective, and hepatoprotective effects. Recent studies have compared the biological activity and function of ABG to those of raw garlic. ABG shows lower anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulation, immunomodulatory, and anti-allergic effects compared to raw garlic. This paper reviews the physicochemical properties, biological activity, health benefits, adverse effects, and general limitations of ABG.

Concepts: Medicine, Nutrition, In vivo, In vitro, Olfaction, Garlic, Allium, Onion


The antimicrobial activities of garlic and other plant alliums are primarily based on allicin, a thiosulphinate present in crushed garlic bulbs. We set out to determine if pure allicin and aqueous garlic extracts (AGE) exhibit antimicrobial properties against the Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc), the major bacterial phytopathogen for alliums and an intrinsically multiresistant and life-threatening human pathogen. We prepared an AGE from commercial garlic bulbs and used HPLC to quantify the amount of allicin therein using an aqueous allicin standard (AAS). Initially we determined the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of the AGE against 38 Bcc isolates; these MICs ranged from 0.5 to 3% (v/v). The antimicrobial activity of pure allicin (AAS) was confirmed by MIC and minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC) assays against a smaller panel of five Bcc isolates; these included three representative strains of the most clinically important species, B. cenocepacia. Time kill assays, in the presence of ten times MIC, showed that the bactericidal activity of AGE and AAS against B. cenocepacia C6433 correlated with the concentration of allicin. We also used protein mass spectrometry analysis to begin to investigate the possible molecular mechanisms of allicin with a recombinant form of a thiol-dependent peroxiredoxin (BCP, Prx) from B. cenocepacia. This revealed that AAS and AGE modifies an essential BCP catalytic cysteine residue and suggests a role for allicin as a general electrophilic reagent that targets protein thiols. To our knowledge, we report the first evidence that allicin and allicin-containing garlic extracts possess inhibitory and bactericidal activities against the Bcc. Present therapeutic options against these life-threatening pathogens are limited; thus, allicin-containing compounds merit investigation as adjuncts to existing antibiotics.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Microbiology, Concentration, Garlic, Allium, Antimicrobial, Burkholderia, Onion


Steroidal alkaloids are found in plants of the genus Veratrum. Their toxicity manifests as gastrointestinal symptoms followed by a Bezold-Jarisch reflex: hypopnea, hypotension, and bradycardia. Some Veratrum steroidal alkaloids are also teratogens interfering with the hedgehog-2 signaling pathway, which causes cyclopsia and holoprosencephaly. We present a case of accidental poisoning from Veratrum parviflorum mistaken for the edible Allium tricoccum (ramps, wild leek).

Concepts: Allium, Poison, Flora of Ohio, Allium ampeloprasum, Allium tricoccum, Ramsons


Only a few studies analyzed the role of allium vegetables with reference to head and neck cancers (HNC), with mixed results. We investigated the potential favorable role of garlic and onion within the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) Consortium.

Concepts: Head and neck anatomy, Cancer, Lung cancer, Garlic, Allium, Head and neck cancer, Onion, Alliaceae


Several studies have found associations between microbial infections during pregnancy and preterm delivery (PTD). Here we investigate the influence of food with antimicrobial and prebiotic components on the risk of spontaneous PTD. A literature search identified microbes associated with spontaneous PTD. Subsequently, 2 main food types (alliums and dried fruits) were identified to contain antimicrobial components that affect the microbes associated with spontaneous PTD; they also contained dietary fiber recognized as prebiotics. We investigated intake in 18,888 women in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort (MoBa), of whom 950 (5%) underwent spontaneous PTD (<37 gestational weeks). Alliums (garlic, onion, leek, and spring onion) [OR: 0.82 (95% CI: 0.72, 0.94), P = 0.005] and dried fruits (raisins, apricots, prunes, figs, and dates) [OR: 0.82 (95% CI: 0.72, 0.94); P = 0.005] were associated with a decreased risk of spontaneous PTD. Intake of alliums was related to a more pronounced risk reduction in early spontaneous PTD (gestational weeks 28-31) [OR: 0.39 (95% CI: 0.19, 0.80)]. The strongest association in this group was with garlic [OR: 0.47 (95% CI: 0.25-0.89)], followed by cooked onions. Intake of dried fruits showed an association with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM) [OR: 0.74 (95% CI: 0.65, 0.95)]; the strongest association in this group was with raisins [OR: 0.71 (95% CI: 0.56, 0.92)]. The strongest association with PPROM in the allium group was with garlic [OR: 0.74 (95% CI: 0.56, 0.97)]. In conclusion, intake of food with antimicrobial and prebiotic compounds may be of importance to reduce the risk of spontaneous PTD. In particular, garlic was associated with overall lower risk of spontaneous PTD. Dried fruits, especially raisins, were associated with reduced risk of PPROM.

Concepts: Obstetrics, Garlic, Allium, Dietary fiber, Rupture of membranes, Onion, Shallot, Welsh onion


In the last decade, diseases of bacterial origin in onions have increased and this has led to significant losses in production. These diseases are currently observed in both the Old and New Worlds. The aim of the experimental work reported here was to evaluate whether the irrigation method influences the incidence of diseases of bacterial origin.

Concepts: Archaea, Garlic, Allium, Onion, Alliaceae, Shallot, Tree onion, Welsh onion


Background: Garlics and onions have been used for the treatment of diseases caused by parasites and microbes since ancient times. Trypanosomiasis and leishmaniasis are a concern in many areas of the world, especially in poor countries. Methods:Trypanosoma brucei brucei and Leishmania tarentolae were used to investigate the anti-parasitic effects of dichloromethane extracts of Allium sativum (garlic) and Allium cepa (onion) bulbs. As a confirmation of known antimicrobial activities, they were studied against a selection of G-negative, G-positive bacteria and two fungi. Chemical analyses were performed using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS). Results: Chemical analyses confirmed the abundance of several sulfur secondary metabolites in garlic and one (zwiebelane) in the onion extract. Both extracts killed both types of parasites efficiently and inhibited the Trypanosoma brucei trypanothione reductase irreversibly. In addition, garlic extract decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential in trypanosomes. Garlic killed the fungi C. albicans and C. parapsilosis more effectively than the positive control. The combinations of garlic and onion with common trypanocidal and leishmanicidal drugs resulted in a synergistic or additive effect in 50% of cases. Conclusion: The mechanism for biological activity of garlic and onion appears to be related to the amount and the profile of sulfur-containing compounds. It is most likely that vital substances inside the parasitic cell, like trypanothione reductase, are inhibited through disulfide bond formation between SH groups of vital redox compounds and sulfur-containing secondary metabolites.

Concepts: Bacteria, Chromatography, Garlic, Allium, Onion, Alliaceae, Bulb, Shallot