For some people, there is no such thing as too much garlic. Many people reach for breath mints or chewing gum to rid their breath of the resulting odour. But these don’t always work, and researchers have found out why.

According to the American Journal of Physiology, immediately after eating garlic, mouth gases showed high levels of methanethiol and allyl mercaptan, and lesser concentrations of allyl methyl sulfide, allyl methyl disulfide, and allyl disulfide. These are the gases that cause “garlic breath”.

As long as these gases are coming from the mouth, breath mints can neutralize the odour. But three hours later, these same gases were being generated from the intestine, and the odour expelled with the breath. The problem is that once the gases were produced systemically, breath mints have no effect. Of course, once the garlic and the offending gases it produces have left the body, the breath will be free of that particular offending odour.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 133 – September/October 2002