Garlic may help fight cancer, new research suggests.

In a small pilot study, a new urine test developed by researchers suggests that the more garlic people consumed, the lower the levels of the potential carcinogenic process were.

The research is all about body processes associated with nitrogen-containing compounds, scientists say. These processes include nitrosation, or the conversion of some substances found in foods or contaminated water into carcinogens.

“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,” said Earl Harrison, senior study co-author and professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University (OSU).

“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.” Earl Harrison added.

Ultimately, the scientists hope to find that a nutritional intervention could be a way to stop the process that develops these carcinogens.

This process is most commonly initiated by exposure to substances called nitrates from certain processed meats or high-heat food preparation practices, or to water contaminated by industry or agricultural runoff.

About 20 percent of nitrates that are consumed convert to nitrites. A cascade of events can convert these compounds into what are called nitrosamines, and many, but not all, nitrosamines are linked to cancer.

Vegetables also contain nitrates, but previous research has suggested that the vitamin C in vegetables lowers the risk that those nitrates will convert to something toxic.

Researchers suspected that nutrients in garlic could have similar antioxidant effects as vitamin C, said an OSU release.

The study was published in a recent issue of Analytical Biochemistry.