Tuesday February 6, 2018 Q&A

How can you get rid of garlic breath?


1 By eating parsley

2 By chewing a piece of chewing gum

3 By drinking beer

Correct answer: By eating parsley

Garlic is used a lot in cooking but often leaves you with bad breath. The culprit is chemical compounds that, like for onions, don’t exist in an intact clove but are formed only when the clove is cut.

Cutting into a clove releases the enzyme alliinase, which normally remains within individual cells. Alliinase transforms the alliin in the garlic into allicin through a process intended to protect cloves against insects and fungi.

Allicin is the main ingredient behind the odor of chopped garlic. It is relatively unstable and breaks down into various sulfurous organic compounds – which are precisely what give our breath that garlicky smell. Scientists have identified four of these compounds as the primary causes: diallyl disulfide; allyl methyl sulfide; allyl mercaptan; and allyl methyl disulfide. While our bodies can quickly break down some of these, others take longer to disappear. Allyl methyl sulfide sticks around the longest: it passes into our bloodstream through our digestive tract and travels to other organs – including the skin, kidneys and lungs where it is excreted through sweat, urine and respiration.

It can take up to 24 hours for our bodies to eliminate all the odor-inducing compounds. Until then, you can expect the smell of garlic to linger. So what can you do to counter garlic breath? Research has shown that some foods like parsley, milk, apples, spinach and mint can help. Give it a try, and see what works for you!

From the book “Pourquoi l'asperge donne-t-elle une odeur au pipi?” PPUR.