Q. As a physician I usually enjoy your column, but I have serious questions about your claims about garlic. What is the evidence that "Egyptian physicians used garlic"? Even if they did, is that a good reason for us to use it? How do you know that garlic can help prevent blood clots or that it has cancer-fighting properties?
I enjoy the flavor of garlic, but I am skeptical about its ability to prevent cancer or heart attacks. Please back up your statements.
A. The Ebers Papyrus from 1550 B.C. mentions 22 herbal remedies containing garlic. Hippocrates prescribed garlic for a wide variety of ailments, including chest pain. Just because Egyptian and Greek healers used garlic doesn't mean it has medicinal value. Modern studies show, however, that this herb contains chemicals with anti-platelet action. As a physician you understand that such activity reduces the risk of blood clots.
In the test tube, garlic blocks tumor promotion. Epidemiology in China shows that when garlic is part of the diet, cancer incidence drops dramatically. To maximize the anti-cancer effect of garlic, it should be crushed or chopped at least 10 minutes before it is cooked.
For more information, we recommend the review of garlic by Dr. Robert Nagourney in the Journal of Medicinal Food (Spring 1998).
Q. I am a vegetarian and rely heavily on soy products for protein. I eat lots of tofu, tempeh and vegetable protein crumbles, and I drink soy milk. My husband thinks that my lack of energy, weight gain, weakness, constipation and puffy eyes are due to a lack of animal protein. I think he is mistaken and I wonder if my thyroid could be underactive. Ever since I started taking Prozac, I have felt worse.
A. The symptoms you describe could certainly be caused by low thyroid activity, but your doctor will need blood tests to make sure.
You may want to reconsider your diet. It may not be a lack of animal protein, but rather an overdose of soy foodstuffs that could contribute to your trouble. Cabbage, broccoli and peanuts are other foods that might block thyroid hormone when consumed in generous quantities.
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King Features Syndicate
Pub Date: 02/14/99