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Garlic and health: The development of high quality garlic and its influence on biomarkers of atherosclerosis and cancer in humans for disease prevention

Contract number : QLK1-1999-00498
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 6.127.412
EC contribution : € 3.939.137
Starting date : 1/02/2000
Duration : 48 Months
Scientific Officer : Rosanna d'Amario
Project website : garlicandhealth
Dr Chris Kik
Plant Research International
Droevendaalsesteeg, 1
6700 AA Wageningen
The Netherlands
Tel.: +31 317 477001
Fax: +31 317 418094
E-mail: c.kik @

Garlic is generally considered as a crop species which is beneficial for human health. However the mechanisms behind the health beneficial effects of garlic are poorly understood. Furthermore, the knowledge on the formation of health beneficial compounds in garlic is also insufficient for a science based garlic cultivation for pharmaceutical purposes. The aim of this European framework V project is to fill these gaps. This will take place in a unique combined European effort which brings together plant and human health scientists.

The production of garlic (Allium sativum L.) in Europe is concentrated in the Mediterranean countries. The price of European garlic is high, especially in comparison with Chinese garlic. This price difference could severely threaten the European garlic growers if there was a free market in Europe for garlic. However, to protect the European garlic growers the European Commission issued in 1993 a regulation that only 12000 tons of Chinese garlic can be imported annually. The main objective of the plant part of the project is to develop methods, through improved seed technology and genetics, which will enable the European garlic growers to meet the internal demand for high quality products and to compete on the international level. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are by far the leading causes of death and morbidity in the EU. The health cost spent on the treatment of these diseases reaches many billion euros. Garlic has been used for a long time as food with many therapeutic effects. Its beneficial effects are directly linked to its sulphur metabolism. Detailed studies on the mechanisms underlying cancer and cardio-vascular diseases are lacking, especially studies with defined garlic preparations and compounds are poorly found. Therefore the main objective of the health part of the project is the analysis of the role of garlic for the prevention of chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and cancer through cellular, molecular and clinical studies in cells, animals and humans. Specific biomarkers will be identified as indicators for the modulation of these diseases on the cellular and tissue level and in humans as a basis for new intervention studies.


There are two main scientific objectives in this project, firstly to understand and improve the production of garlic bio-active compounds by sophisticated breeding techniques, and secondly to improve the understanding of the role of garlic as diet and as therapy in promoting and sustaining health and preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis through cellular, molecular and clinical studies as safe and low cost therapy and preventive agent. Further, we aim to identify the mechanisms by which garlic interferes with the inflammatory process of atherosclerosis and the development of cancer in cells, animals and humans. Two technological objectives are also pursued for industrial potential applications: garlic mass propagation of elite clones, to enable cropping and processing of high quality products, and the development of new garlic pharmaceutical formulations with improved properties and quality for the therapy and prevention of chronic diseases.

(expected) Results and achievements

The project is organised into nine interrelated workpackages (WPs): WP one concerns the evaluation of the gene pool for organo-sulphur traits and fertility and the construction of a core collection; in WP two a reliable genetic transformation system and a mass propagation method will be developed and the sexual hybridisation system studied; in WP three the interaction between genotype and environment will be evaluated; WP four involves the analyses of the biochemistry of the sulphur pathway in garlic; WP five will examine the influence of garlic compounds on the patho-mechanisms of cardio-vascular diseases like atherosclerosis, especially the inflammatory process of atherosclerosis, further the enzymes involved in signal transduction regulating cholesterol metabolism and the action and efficacy of garlic preparations in transgenic mice as models for human-like hyperlipidaemia and atherosclerosis. WP six deals with the influence of garlic on the development of cancer, especially the activation and detoxification of carcinogens and prevention of carcinogen genotoxicity as well as the inhibition of the initiation of hepato-carcinogenesis, the metabolism of garlic compounds in tissues, animals and humans and the signalling pathway of apoptosis induction. WP seven will focus on pharmaceutical aspects of new formulations, especially the analysis of existing products on the market and of formulations and on the development of in vitro dissolution systems and analytical methods for the evaluation of indicative release parameters. Further, the development of improved bio-available formulations and preparation of study medication will be performed. WP eight finally will aim at garlic and its bio-availability and metabolic fate in humans and its activity relating to cancer and atherosclerosis with evaluation of inflammatory and cancer biomarkers.


Horticulture Research International
Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics
CV35 9EF Warwickshire
United Kingdom
University of Liverpool
School of Biological Sciences
Donnan Laboratoiries
L69 7ZD Liverpool
United Kingdom
Société Coopérative Agricole de Production de Legumes Coopd'Or r & d
URGAP INRA Bretenières
PO Box Bv 1540
21034 Dijon
Université François Rabelais IRBI
Faculté des Sciences et Techniques
Avenue Monge
37200 Tours
Universidad de Córdoba
Departmento de Microbiologia
Avenida de San Alberto Magno S/N
14004 Cordoba
Agricultural Research Organization
The Volcani Center
Department of Ornamental Horticulture
PO Box 6
50250 Bet Dagan
Département des Productions Frutières et Horticoles
Ave Agropolis
PO Box 5035
34032 Montpellier
Pathologie Végétale
BP 94
84143 Montfavet
Hebrew University
Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Quality Sciences
Department of Field Crops, Vegetables & Genetics
P.O. Box 121
University of Leipzig
Department of Biochemistry
Liebigstraße 16
4103 Leipzig
IUMR de Toxicologie Alimentaire INRA-ENSBANA
17, Rue Sully
21065 Dijon Cedex, France
Lehrstuhl fur Pharmazeutische Biologie
Zentrum fur Pharmaforschung
Butenandtstraße 5-11
81377 München
TNO Prevention and Health
Gaubius Laboratory
Zernikedreef 9
PO Box 2215
2301 CE Leiden
The Netherlands
Lichtwer Pharma AG
Wallenroder strasse 8-10
D-13435 Berlin

Fifth Framework Programme

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