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FIC Member Sheryl Barringer Discusses Garlic Breath in Popular Science

You can tell your partner ate a garlicky meal a full day after the fact, even though he swears he brushed his teeth—twice. That’s because minced or crushed garlic (the manner in which we normally eat it) releases four volatile sulfur compounds to which our olfactory systems are particularly sensitive.

The biggest culprit is allyl methyl sulfide, which metabolizes more slowly than the others, keeping it at a higher concentration in the body for a longer period. After ingesting garlic, the potent compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream, then become vaporized while going through the lungs. The result: bad breath.

Doctors reported on this phenomenon for the first time in 1936. A patient given garlic soup through a feeding tube had garlic breath hours later, even though the food never touched his mouth.

“Twenty-four hours after consuming garlic, you can still smell it,” says FIC member Dr. Sheryl Barringer, a professor of food science at Ohio State University and author of a 2014 Journal of Food Science paper on how various foods react with sulfur volatiles.

Read more about the study and how to cure garlic breath on Popular Science.