Garlic, wrestling the reek

By 23. May 2014Blog

Garlic, adds great flavour to many foods, it’s good for you, but let’s face it, it makes you stink. Anyone who has been within breathing distance of someone the day after they have eaten garlic bread, Aioli, Kimchee or Bärlauch (wild garlic) soup and you have not consumed any will know what I am talking about.

But what causes “garlic breath”? According to a paper published in the Journal of Food Science there are 4 main volatile organic compounds: diallyl disulfide, allyl methyl sulfide, allyl mercatan and allyl methyl disulfide.  The last one, allyl methyl disulfide is the main culprit as it is metabolised slower than the other volatiles causing an extended period of “release”.

The researchers decided to test various foods to see if they were able to deodorise the mouth following garlic consumption. Cholophyll had previously been reported as an effective deodoriser so they tested chlorophyllin, parsley, spinach and mint. They also tested apple, green tea, lemon juice, a soft drink  and whey protein.

So is there something that lets us munch away on garlic without the possible uncomfortable consequences? Well, parsley, spinach and mint did reduce the level of the volatiles compared to the controls but the chlorophyllin did not, suggesting it is not the chlorophyll component of these foods that is the deodoriser. In fact the researchers suggest it is an enzymatic process and it also occurs with raw apple.

Cooked apple, green tea and lemon juice also had a deodorising effect and as there are no active enzymes in these foods it is suggested this effect is due to polypenolic compounds. Also for lemon juice the lowering of pH destroys an enzyme that produces some other volatiles. Whey protein had no effect.

So there you have it, there are many things that can help to fight the stink. And for soft drink lovers out there, the soft drink tested had a low pH and also displayed some deodorising properties.

 The paper is available from the Journal of Food Science  website.