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Radiation is naturally present in our environment, since the birth of our planet, but an increase in exposure comes from man made radiation, from medical sources, such as X-rays, and commercial and industrial activities. For example, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report, one of the largest sources of exposure is the medically used CT scans; other medical procedures add a similar dose of exposure to radiation. The new airport scanners further add to our burden of radiation. In addition, as quoted in that report, some consumer products such as tobacco, fertilizer, luminous dial watches and smoke detectors add to our annual exposure.

Ionizing Radiation
Ionizing radiation, such as X-rays or gamma rays damages tissue by causing ionizations (pushing out an electron of a molecule in the tissues) creating an unbalanced free radical that will attack other molecules in an effort to “steal” another electron to balance its state. In this way free radicals disrupts molecules, such as DNA, producing mutations that can lead to cancer, other diseases and aging; furthermore, the free radicals while interacting chemically with other molecules form toxic reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide that create further damage in cells and tissues.

The production of free radicals following exposure to ionizing radiation takes place in less than a second, and their damage is instant. Our body, therefore, must have radiation protective means to prevent free radical damage and its later consequences.

Radiation Effects on Humans
While high doses of radiation, used in cancer therapy aim to kill tumor cells, our daily concern is with the long-term damaging effects of exposure to low levels of radiation. The question whether there is a low enough radiation dose that is not harmful cannot be answered, as any damage to DNA in crucial genes may trigger mutations that over years may lead to cancer. My own research, for example, showed that single human cells can be transformed to cancer cells by low doses of X-rays. Thus, constant protection is essential for reducing the risk of the long-term effects of disease and our aim is to identify natural radioprotectors that stop free radicals in their tracks and prevent changes in the blueprint of DNA and other molecules that lead to disease and aging.

Garlic, and Aged Garlic Extract—Natural Radiation Protection Radioprotection, by natural means rather than drugs, may be achieved by supplying the body with certain dietary antioxidants, which destroy radiation—induced free radicals and increase internal protective antioxidants that are depleted by exposure to radiation and free radicals. Garlic is a rich source of antioxidants. Yet, fresh garlic is not for everyone, as people shun the bulb because of its lingering odor and deprive themselves of its health protective benefits.

Enter Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract,™ (AGE) an odorless supplement, manufactured by the Wakunaga of America Company, has the beneficial health effects of fresh garlic, sometimes even surpassing those of the fresh bulb. AGE is produced from organically-grown garlic, which undergoes a lengthy extraction and aging process, at room temperature, enhancing its antioxidant content to levels higher than those of fresh garlic.

AGE is highly bioavailable and contains high levels of water-soluble organosulfur compounds, such as S-allyl cysteine and S-allyl mercaptocysteine. Other antioxidants in AGE include non organosulfur compounds, such as fructosyl arginine, tetrahydro-beta-carboline derivatives, allixin and saponins.

Age Enhances Scavenging Enzymes
AGE has all the capabilities of an effective radioprotector to eliminate radiation-produced free radicals. Studies by N. Ide, PhD, show that AGE and its component S-allyl cysteine and S-allylmercaptocysteine scavenge reactive oxygen species, including toxic hydrogen peroxide.

AGE also increased levels of free radical scavenging enzymes, SOD, catalase and glutathione peroxidase, important radioprotectors that reduce the risk of radiation induced cancer, as shown in my own research.

Free radicals damage blood vessels; studies in cell cultures of endothelial cells that line blood vessels show that AGE protects endothelial cells from free radical injury by increasing the same cellular scavenging enzymes and in a dose-and-time related fashion suppressed the production of toxic superoxide radical and hydrogen peroxide that further damage cells. The experiments show the potential ability of AGE to protect endothelial cells from radiation free radical injury that is linked to the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.

AGE Enhances the Cellular Radioprotector Glutathione
Glutathione, also known as GSH, is a small antioxidant molecule produced by the body and found in every cell. It acts as an antioxidant and an immune system booster, among many of its actions. Glutathione is an important radiation protector, defending cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and of peroxides formed in metabolism and increased after radiation. A state of depleted glutathione, following exposure to radiation is associated with cell damage, depressed immunity—a potential increased risk of cancer, and progression of aging. Work by Ide and others have shown that AGE and its components S-allyl cysteine and S-allyl mercaptocysteine increase cellular levels of cellular glutathione, in a variety of cells, including normal liver and breast tissue.

AGE, Radiation Protection and Enhanced Immune Defenses
Ionizing radiation damages the immune system, particularly when radiation exposure occurs over time. The organs that produce immune cells are extremely sensitive to the damaging effects of radiation and a fall in the protective immune white cells (lymphocytes) is one of the most characteristic manifestations. Following exposure to radiation there is also reduced resistance to pathogenic micro-organisms, which may lead to fatal infections.

Experiments by Dr. Benjamin Lau, of Loma Linda University showed AGE protected human lymphocytes from radiation damage; the human cells were grown with or without AGE and then exposed to radiation. Cells grown in AGE were protected from radiation damage, while those grown without AGE suffered severe radiation effects, with many dying following exposure. These studies also showed by contrast to the protective effects of AGE, fresh garlic did not protect cells from radiation damage and even worsened the radiation effects, possibly due to allicin that is present in fresh garlic and is a volatile oxidant.

In further studies, of a preclinical nature, Dr. Lau, found that injection of AGE enhanced the phagocytic activity of immune white cells, showing that AGE increased their ability to engulf infectious organisms. The increased activity of the phagocytes would potentially help overcome the increased risk of infection following radiation exposure that damages the immune system.

Summing Up: Ionizing radiation that produces free radicals is all around us and our exposure increases with medical tests we take such as X-rays, CT scanners, radiation from industrial sources and the new airport body scanners.

Radiation induced free radicals damage DNA and other molecules that have long-term effects in causing cancer and other diseases. Radioprotective measures are essential; they involve powerful antioxidants that can be obtained from natural sources. Aged garlic extract, an odorless supplement produced from organic fresh garlic has higher levels of antioxidants than fresh garlic and acts as a radioprotector and immune enhancer, helping reduce the risk of disease and aging associated with radiation exposure.

Carmia Borek, PhD

Carmia Borek has a PhD in genetics and molecular biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and an MS degree in the fields of physiology, pharmacology and biochemistry, from George Washington University. As an expert in the fields of cancer and in the role of nutrition and antioxidants in disease prevention, Dr. Borek has published in over 300 scientific publications and has been the editor of several books in medicine and biology. Additionally, Dr. Borek is the author of over 100 educational and popular articles in the fields of diet and health, including the book Maximize Your Health-Span with Antioxidants, The Baby Boomer’s Guide a science-based book for the non-scientist.