Benefits of garlic not to be sniffed at

IT BENEFITS your health - just don't eat it out on Valentine's Day. Researchers have found that garlic makes you look better and boosts immunity to disease for up to a month after eating it.

The subjects of the study may have been fish but the scientists believe other species - including humans - also gain.

The study, by researchers at Heriot-Watt University and Stirling University's Institute of Aquaculture, was prompted by centuries-old claims of the medical benefits from up to 80 different plants. Feeding supermarket-bought garlic to trout had "dramatic effects," the researchers said.

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Microbiology Professor Brian Austin, one of the authors of the new report on garlic, said: ""We are looking predominantly at the effect on fish but I've no doubt the same thing would happen with any species.

"We supplemented the diet of fish with garlic and within about two weeks you had a marked benefit in terms of growth and in terms of improvements to health.

"One of the active ingredients in garlic, allicin, is sold in health food stores, and the manufacturers do have some data to support the human health benefit."

Medical herbalist and owner of the Napiers Clinics, Dee Atkinson, said: "Garlic is one of the mainstays of my practice. Particularly in Scotland, it's very good in winter against colds, flu and upper respiratory problems.

"It's not a surprise that it's a benefit for fish. Garlic is often used for animals to prevent disease. And it also stops you being bitten by midges because you're less attractive.

"We use garlic to support the immune system. If you use plants to build that up, then when you stop, hopefully they have built up your underlying health level."

But should Scots avoid garlic before romantic Valentine's Day dinners?

"Garlic is also thought to be an aphrodisiac," said Atkinson. "If you eat it regularly, every day, before your evening meal, you don't smell of garlic."

But she cautioned that cooked garlic loses its medicinal value.