For the last few decades, researchers and scientists have noted that garlic and onions may have remarkable anti-cancer properties and the more you eat, the greater the cancer protection. Let’s remember that everyone is unique and that before you embark on a garlic onion diet regiment, you should discuss dietary changes with your health care provider.
The story of the beneficial effects of onions on cancer is a long one. Most recently a 2021 study (1) offered this review of the current research: “Compelling evidence indicates that individuals who consume copious amounts of onion, their susceptibility to cancer at various organ sites is reduced.” If you eat a lot of onions you may be able to reduce cancer risk. “Polyphenolics such as flavonoids found in onion are partially responsible for this beneficial effect. In addition, organosulfur compounds (e.g. cysteine, S-methyl cysteine, diallyl disulfide and diallyl trisulfide) content of onion play an important role in cancer chemoprevention as several studies are showing protective effects of these compounds against liver, stomach, colorectal and breast cancers.. Moreover, onion, due to high-selenium content, can prevent some cancer occurrence without resulting in an excessive accumulation of tissue selenium, a concern associated with standard selenium compounds.”
The question researchers are really looking for is how do onions work on cancer? An answer can be found in industrial waste.
The industrial waste eye-opener
In 2012, biotechnologists in India made an amazing discovery. Onion and garlic waste from the food industry could be used to mop up hazardous heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, mercury and tin in contaminated materials. The research appeared in the International Journal of Environment and Pollution (2),(3). The researchers suggested that the onion and garlic remnants should be explored as an alternative remediation material for removing toxic elements from contaminated materials including industrial waste. The (onion and garlic) technique appears to be industrially applicable and viable, the research team suggests. “This may provide an affordable, environmentally friendly and low maintenance technology for small and medium scale industries in developing countries.”
So what does this have to do with cancer?
The heavy metals listed above are classified as human carcinogens by several regulatory agencies. As cancer-causing agents, high blood levels of these agents would put people at greater risk of developing the disease. Foods that could be shown to help rid the body of these metals would, of course, be of great interest in the prevention of cancer.
Supporting good nutrition to help in the fight against cancer is one of the reasons to keep garlic and onions and the Allium genus family group – shallots, leeks and chives in your diet.
There is some new research to explore. Let’s look at some of the studies.
Oxygen, Cancer, and Cleaning up the Cellular Environment
Cancer likes a polluted, oxygen low environment. This is the world of the tumor microenvironment. A 2015 study (4) in the journal Cancer Prevention Research suggested the benefit of garlic, onion, shallot, leek and chive consumption on correcting this tumor microenvironment. The researchers note:
These vegetables are popular in cuisines worldwide and are valued for their potential medicinal properties. Epidemiologic studies indicate some association of Allium vegetable consumption with decreased risk of cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
The research also suggests compelling evidence that garlic, onions and their sulfur components alter the biological behavior of tumors, tumor microenvironments, or precancerous cells, and decrease cancer risk. The researchers called for more studies to help in determining those who will respond most to increased consumption and determining the optimal amount(s) and preparation(s) of Allium vegetables for cancer prevention will aid the scientific community in making public health recommendations for garlic and onion consumption.
Cleaning up the cancer loving low oxygen environment was also the subject of research published in the journal Biological research.(5) Here doctors found that aged garlic extract (AGE) and its main constituent S-allylcysteine (SAC) are natural antioxidants with protective effects against cerebral ischemia or cancer, events that involve hypoxia stress. This one is very interesting because cancer thrives in a low-oxygen environment “hypoxia stress.”
A specific focus on garlic
An August 2021 study (6) focused on garlic and cancer. Here is the summary of that research: “The consumption of garlic provides strong protection against cancer risk. Taking into account the multi-targeted actions and absence of considerable toxicity, a few active metabolites of garlic are probably to play crucial roles in the killing of cancerous cells. Garlic contains several bioactive molecules with anticancer actions and these include diallyl trisulfide (DATS or Allitridin), allicin, diallyl disulfide, diallyl sulfide, and allyl mercaptan. The effects of various garlic-derived products, their phytoconstituents and nanoformulations have been evaluated against skin, prostate, ovarian, breast, gastric, colorectal, oral, liver, and pancreatic cancers. Garlic extract, its phytocompounds and their nanoformulations have been shown to inhibit the different stages of cancer, including initiation, promotion, and progression. Besides, these bioactive metabolites alter the peroxidation of lipid (free-radial damage), activity of nitric oxide synthetase (implicated in cancer’s ability to communicate cell to cell through cell signaling), nuclear factor-κB (part of the inflammation / cancer connection), epidermal growth factor receptor (cell signaling pathways that control cell division), and protein kinase C, cell cycle, and survival signaling.”
“proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, antitumor and anticancer properties.”
In 2018 in the journal Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry (7) researchers noted:
The most commonly consumed spices with breast cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic phytochemical include pepper, onions, ginger, garlic, curry and thyme containing many biologically active metabolites ranging from vitamins, fatty acids esters, polyphenols/phenolics, sulfurcontaining compounds and anthraquinones with proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, antitumor and anticancer properties against breast cancer/carcinogenesis. Therefore, extracts and active principles of these spices could be explored in breast cancer chemoprevention and possibly therapeutically which may provide an avenue for reducing the risk and prevalence of breast cancer.
A December 2019 study in the journal Phytotherapy research (8) added to the growing evidence that garlic, onions and plants of the allium family are potentially beneficial in cancer cases and cancer prevention. The study notes:
“Allium genus vegetables are of the most interesting herbs in restricting cancers that includes garlic, onions, leeks, chives, and shallots. . .The phytochemical analysis of various Allium genus members showed that, to date, 16 species have proved potential anticancer properties due to the accumulation of various sulfur and organic compounds like S-allyl mercaptocysteine, quercetin, flavonoids, and ajoene.
These compounds with various mechanisms such as hindering cell cycle, inhibiting signaling pathways, inducing apoptosis, and antioxidant activity interfere with diverse stages of formation, growth, differentiation, and metastasis of cancer cells.”
The Magaziner Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program
The Magaziner Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program combines conventional, complementary and functional therapies individualized to the needs of each patient. We place great emphasis on an extremely thorough series of lab tests to evaluate the cells of the immune system, inflammatory markers, antioxidant defenses, nutritional status, and overall toxic burden. Most of our patients have already been through the rigors of conventional treatments but have either experienced adverse side effects or unsatisfactory outcomes or both.
Our whole-body approach to cancer includes a variety of therapies, such as nutrition and lifestyle counseling, dietary modifications, supplementation, intravenous vitamin C and other substances, oxidative therapies, immunotherapy, detoxification, lifestyle modifications and exercise therapy, spirituality and mind-body techniques, including stress management and meditation, all with the goal of strengthening the immune system and restoring normal cellular function.
Our treatments are also focused on reducing inflammation, enhancing cellular immune response, improving mitochondrial function, reducing risks of blood clots and inactivating cancer stem cells or cancer initiating cells, that are likely to cause recurrences and metastasis of the disease and are often far more harmful than the actual tumor cells. We strive to change the microenvironment and behavior of the cancer cells by reducing the fuel for these cells and, at the same time, leaving healthy cells alone.
If you would like to explore more information, please contact our office so we can start a conversation with you.
- 1 Kianian F, Marefati N, Boskabady M, Ghasemi SZ, Boskabady MH. Pharmacological Properties of Allium cepa, Preclinical and Clinical Evidences; A Review. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: IJPR. 2021;20(2):107.
2 Negi R, Satpathy G, Tyagi YK, Gupta RK. Biosorption of heavy metals by utilising onion and garlic wastes. International Journal of Environment and Pollution. 2012 Jan 1;49(3-4):179-96.
3 Onion soaks up heavy metal press release Dec 10-2012
4 Nicastro, H. L., Ross, S. A., & Milner, J. A. (2015). Garlic and onions: Their cancer prevention properties. Cancer Prevention Research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 8(3), 181–189.http://doi.org/10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0172
5 Orozco-Ibarra M, Muñoz-Sánchez J, Zavala-Medina ME, Pineda B, Magaña-Maldonado R, Vázquez-Contreras E, Maldonado PD, Pedraza-Chaverri J, Chánez-Cárdenas ME. Aged garlic extract and S-allylcysteine prevent apoptotic cell death in a chemical hypoxia model. Biological research. 2016;49:1-0.
6 Mondal A, Banerjee S, Bose S, Mazumder S, Haber RA, Farzaei MH, Bishayee A. Garlic constituents for cancer prevention and therapy: From phytochemistry to novel formulations. Pharmacological Research. 2021 Aug 24:105837.
7 Muhammad A, Ibrahim MA, Erukainure OL, Malami I, Adamu A. Spices with breast cancer chemopreventive and therapeutic potentials: A functional foods based-review. Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry (Formerly Current Medicinal Chemistry-Anti-Cancer Agents). 2018 Feb 1;18(2):182-94.
8 Asemani Y, Zamani N, Bayat M, Amirghofran Z. Allium vegetables for possible future of cancer treatment. Phytotherapy Research. 2019 Dec;33(12):3019-39.