Eating raw garlic just twice a week can almost halve the risk of lung cancer, new research shows.
A study carried out in China found adults regularly consuming raw garlic as part of their diet were 44 per cent less likely to suffer the disease.
Even when researchers allowed for whether people smoked – the biggest single cause of lung cancer – they found garlic still seemed to reduce the dangers by around 30 per cent.
Around 40,000 people a year are diagnosed with lung cancer in England and Wales alone.
Smoking is thought to cause at least 80 per cent of cases and fewer than one in ten sufferers are still alive five years after their diagnosis.
Previous studies have suggested garlic can protect the lungs against various conditions, as well as ward off other malignancies such as bowel cancer.
One study at the University of South Australia suggested the popular herb could slash the risk of bowel tumours by nearly a third.
In the latest investigation, scientists at Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention compared 1,424 lung cancer patients with 4,500 healthy adults.
Each one was quizzed on their dietary and lifestyle habits, including how often they consumed garlic and whether they smoked.
The results, published online in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, showed those who ate raw garlic at least twice a week were significantly less likely to get lung cancer, even if they smoked or were exposed to high-temperature cooking oil fumes, thought to be another trigger for the disease.
It’s not clear whether cooked garlic would have the same effect.
But previous research suggests the key ingredient seems to be a chemical called allicin, released when the clove is crushed or chopped.
It is thought to dampen down inflammation in the body and act as an anti-oxidant, reducing damage from so-called free radicals to the body’s cells.
Other studies have found it may help ward off the common cold, hospital superbugs and even malaria.
In a report on their findings the researchers said: ‘Garlic may potentially serve as a preventive agent for lung cancer.’