/ 10 November 2003

Manto’s garlic won’t stop Aids

Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s lemon, garlic and olive-oil diet for people with HIV/Aids has been given a firm thumbs-down by the South African Medical Journal.

The editorial of the latest issue of the journal says there is currently no convincing evidence that any of these foods alter the course of the disease.

”It is therefore undesirable to raise false hopes by ill-considered advice until supporting data are available.”

The editorial, penned by the journal’s deputy editor, Prof JP van Niekerk, says there are no human studies that prove that garlic can improve immunity.

Garlic supplements, it says, have been shown to induce drug-nutrient interactions including ”sharply reduced” blood levels of the antiviral medication saquinavir.

Likewise, the editorial says, there is no convincing evidence that olive oil boosts immunity or alters the course of HIV/Aids.

”When the poor purchase the product, its price limits the purchase of other wholesome foods, which in turn is likely to adversely affect [the poor’s] nutritional status.”

Lemon juice had been shown to combat scurvy, but scurvy, it says, is a disease of malnutrition.

It also says that claims that the African potato has anti-cancer properties have not been substantiated, and that the safety of the plant extract is ”of serious concern”.

Tshabalala-Msimang has repeatedly advocated garlic, lemon and olive oil for people living with HIV/Aids, at times expanding the list to include ginger and onions.

”We should eat garlic because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, lemon because of vitamin C and olive oil as a source of vitamin A and E,” she told an audience in Gauteng in August this year.

”All these vitamins are good antioxidants and they are good for everybody.”

She has in the past been heavily criticised for her reluctance to initiate a national rollout of anti-retroviral drugs for treatment of the disease.

The number of South Africans infected with HIV increased from 24,8% in 2001 to 26,5% in 2002. — Sapa