Garlic, I love you. Garlic breath? Not so much.

Mathieu Ranger
23 January 2012

Big important first date tonight? “Congratulations” is what you would be hearing right now if you hadn’t also told me that you indulged in some garlicky bruschetta yesterday. You might be thinking, “Any garlic breath I had yesterday is gone today, especially after brushing my teeth.”

Chances are though, you’re still stinky and most definitely not getting a first date kiss. Here’s why.

Garlic is made up of many kinds of proteins, some of which are special in that they are full of sulphur atoms. Sulphur stinks. It’s what makes onions stink, it’s what makes farts stink and it’s what makes garlic stink.

Did You Know? Garlic is good for the heart. Once ingested, it creates a substance that relaxes your blood vessels, making your blood flow nice and smooth.

When garlic is chewed and partially digested in your mouth, its proteins are broken down releasing smaller sulphur-containing molecules which make your mouth stinky. With a little bit of teeth brushing, the sulphur compounds in your mouth are easy to eliminate. So why does garlic breath persist long after you've brushed your teeth?

The answer rests with a little molecule called allyl methyl sulphide. This is one of the molecules released from partially digested garlic and is also the reason that you’re not getting a second date. When you swallow garlic and send it to your gut the accompanying sulphur compounds are absorbed into your bloodstream. This isn't a big deal as long as you are able to metabolize them. Unfortunately however, your body can’t break down allyl methyl sulphide and needs to kick it out of your system somehow. The options? Urine, skin and lungs. There’s the answer! Even though you brushed your teeth seventeen times and you chewed $60 worth of gum you’re still spewing sulphur from your lungs right into your date’s face.

Did You Know? Some say that eating parsley can help get rid of the stinky sulphur compounds found in garlic. Not true. At most, parsley will make your mouth feel temporarily fresh until the garlic breath exuding from your lungs comes out and blows that freshness away.

So what are your options? Unfortunately, science can currently only offer one solution: reschedule.

Learn More!

For those adventurous types, check out the actual study that identified the culprit responsible for long-lasting garlic breath: http://ajpgi.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/276/2/G425

Up for a challenge? The scientists in this study (http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv/53/3/53_277/_article) say that garlic breath can be cured by eating mushrooms. Look at how they performed their breath sampling in the section titled MATERIALS AND METHODS. Can you think of a reason why the conclusions they make based on this experiment are very limited (hint: look at how garlic samples are given to the test subjects in the experiment)?

Article first published on September 19, 2010.

Photo by Mathieu Ranger

Mathieu Ranger

I am a graduate student in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. By day I study yeast and by night...well I don't. I have joined CurioCity to put my communication skills to the test. Let's see how I do!


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