Garlic, if consumed raw just twice a week, can cut your risk of developing lung cancer in half, according to new research. A Chinese study recently found that adults who regularly consumed garlic were significantly less likely to develop the deadly disease, even if they smoked.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, compared 1,424 lung cancer patients with 4,500 healthy adults, according to the Daily Mail. After quizzing subjects about lifestyle and dietary choices, the researchers found a clear correlation between eating raw garlic at least twice a week and a lowered risk of developing the cancer.

"Protective association between intake of raw garlic and lung cancer has been observed with a dose-response pattern, suggesting that garlic may potentially serve as a chemopreventive agent for lung cancer," the researchers wrote, noting that adults who habitually consumed the herb were 44 percent less likely to suffer the disease.

Even among regular smokers, who account for 80 percent of all lung cancer cases, the likelihood was reduced by 30 percent.

Raw Garlic And Allicin

Previous research has found raw garlic to be a powerful antioxidant capable of reducing inflammation as well as damage caused by free radicals. The active ingredient is thought to be the pungent chemical allicin, which is released when the herb's cloves are chopped or crushed. Besides reducing the risk of developing lung cancer, allicin is also believed to boost the body's defense against common colds, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and malaria.

The National Institutes of Health also rates raw garlic as "possibly effective" against hypertension, tick bites, fungal infections, atherosclerosis, and colon, rectal, and stomach cancer. Traditionally, the herb has been used to treat conditions as diverse as gout, snake bites, and chronic stress.

For those sensitive to the strong, pungent smell of raw garlic, as well as those worrying about having bad breath, health officials suggest allicin supplements rendered odorless by aging. However, they caution that this process may also restrict the antioxidant capacity of the chemical.

For all its apparent health benefits, a regular diet of raw garlic is worth a try. Just don't forget the breath mints.

Source: Jin ZY, Wu M, Han RQ, et al. Raw Garlic Consumption as a Protective Factor for Lung Cancer, a Population-Based Case-Control Study in a Chinese Population. Cancer Prevention Research. 2013.