Garlic Breath: The Why and The How

Garlic_Press_and_GarlicThe Mediterranean and especially the Lebanese cuisine is centered around that tasty white clove named Garlic. In addition, if you share with me the low self-control when it comes to the food you love and especially garlic, you will definitely know the feel of being busted with Garlic breath before a meeting or even a date. Consequently, you will start brushing, chewing, flossing… and wishing for a time travel just to undo eating that garlic melted chicken sandwich. Why does garlic give you that stinky breath and where the clove itself doesn’t even have a smell?!

The answer lies in the chemistry … more specifically those four compounds: Diallyl Sulphide, Allyl Methyl Sulfide, Allyl Methyl Disulfide and Allyl Mercaptan or as I like to refer to them as “The Sulfur Gang”.


Ironically, none of these compounds exists in the intact cloves. It is after crushing the garlic that cellular enzymes are released and transform the compound Allin to Allicin that then gets transformed to The Sulfur Gang. Additionally, knowing that Allyl Methyl Sufide is broken down the slowest in the body means that it’s the “devilish” molecule behind that persisting garlic breath. On the other hand, it is worth noting that most of garlic’s health benefits come from this Sulfur Gang.

Now what happens next is the biggest issue, the Sulfur Gang gets absorbed to the blood stream and is eliminated in the lungs, sweat, urine … hence every excreted bodily fluid.

Interestingly, this was first described in 1936 when two doctors were testing the effect of garlic on esophageal cancer, and due to the disease they fed there patients garlic soup through the intestinal wall hence bypassing the mouth, where even then the patients “suffered” from garlic breath few hours after the soup.

Now, is there a way to eliminate that garlic breath?
Well the short answer is NO … all we can do is decrease it, but we can never eliminate it.

Here are few ways to do it:'Tim, honey, I don't know how to say this...But...It's...It's your breath...It reeks of mint.'

  • Brushing your teeth, gargle and floss hence physically remove The Sulfur Gang available in the mouth; although this method makes you feel fresh right away but the Gang is already in your stomach being absorbed and distributed to “the world”! so this method is not that effective
  • Eating lemon, which can partly neutralize The Sulfur Gang; partially is not a good enough
  • Eating any source of Chlorophyll, meaning any green herb, like for example: parsley, mint, cilantro… is the most efficient way to decrease acute and delayed garlic breath. The latter makes the oriental dish: baked/fried garlic chicken wings dipped in lemon and cilantro the best tasty combination ever

In fact, the way chlorophyll works in this case is very interesting, because studies have shown that its absorption to the body is not that significant. Chlorophyll actually chelates the sulfur Gang making it less available for absorption, and hence making it the most effective way in decreasing the acute and delayed garlic breath.

So if you got busted with garlic breath and realise you have a meeting coming,the key would be eating and chewing any source of chlorophyll right after eating garlic and hoping for a perfect chelation of The Sulfur Gang, or you know…. Cancel your meeting and enjoy your garlic!

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2 thoughts on “Garlic Breath: The Why and The How

  1. Pingback: Coffee Breath: Not My Cup Of Tea – Science Bar

  2. Pingback: This Will Bring Tears To Your Eyes – Science Bar

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