Allicin is considered responsible for most of the pharmacological activity of crushed raw garlic cloves. However, when garlic supplements and garlic foods are consumed, allicin bioavailability or bioequivalence (ABB) has been unknown and in question because allicin formation from alliin and garlic alliinase usually occurs after consumption, under enzyme-inhibiting gastrointestinal conditions. The ABB from 13 garlic supplements and 9 garlic foods was determined by bioassay for 13 subjects by comparing the area under the 32-h concentration curve of breath allyl methyl sulfide (AMS), the main breath metabolite of allicin, to the area found after consuming a control (100% ABB) of known allicin content: homogenized raw garlic. For enteric tablets, ABB varied from 36–104%, but it was reduced to 22–57% when consumed with a high-protein meal, due to slower gastric emptying. Independent of meal type, non-enteric tablets gave high ABB (80–111%), while garlic powder capsules gave 26–109%. Kwai garlic powder tablets, which have been used in a large number of clinical trials, gave 80% ABB, validating it as representing raw garlic in those trials. ABB did not vary with alliinase activity, indicating that only a minimum level of activity is required. Enteric tablets (high-protein meal) disintegrated slower in women than men. The ABB of supplements was compared to that predicted in vitro by the dissolution test in the United States Pharmacopeia (USP); only partial agreement was found. Cooked or acidified garlic foods, which have no alliinase activity, gave higher ABB than expected: boiled (16%), roasted (30%), pickled (19%), and acid-minced (66%). Black garlic gave 5%. The mechanism for the higher than expected ABB for alliinase-inhibited garlic was explored; the results for an alliin-free/allicin-free extract indicate a partial role for the enhanced metabolism of γ-glutamyl S
-allylcysteine and S
-allylcysteine to AMS. In conclusion, these largely unexpected results (lower ABB for enteric tablets and higher ABB for all other products) provide guidelines for the qualities of garlic products to be used in future clinical trials and new standards for manufacturers of garlic powder supplements. They also give the consumer an awareness of how garlic foods might compare to the garlic powder supplements used to establish any allicin-related health benefit of garlic.
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