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This process, called nitrosation, converts some substances found in foods or contaminated water into cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosation is most commonly caused by nitrates from certain processed meats or high-heat food preparation methods, or by water contaminated by industrial or agricultural runoff.
"What we were after was developing a method where we could measure in urine two different compounds, one related to the risk for cancer, and the other, which indicates the extent of consumption of garlic," senior study author Earl Harrison, a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and an investigator at the university's cancer center, said in a university news release.
"Our results showed that those were inversely related to one another -- meaning that the more we had the marker for garlic consumption, the less there was of the marker for the risk of cancer," he added.
The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Analytical Biochemistry.
Harrison and colleagues hope to use this urine test to identify nutritional interventions that can halt nitrosation.
"The precise mechanism by which garlic and other compounds affect nitrosation is under extensive investigation, but is not clear at this time," Harrison said. "What this research does suggest, however, is that garlic may play some role in inhibiting formation of these nitrogen-based toxic substances."
-- Robert Preidt
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