There Might Actually Be a Simple Cure for Garlic Breath


Some think of garlic as the enemy of good breath. (Photo: Getty Images)

Sure, the scent of garlic emanating from your mouth can scare off the vampires, but it can also frighten away just about every person in your path. A new study published in the September issue of the Journal of Food Science, however, has identified three foods that can banish garlic breath.

Investigators instructed volunteers to chew on three grams of softneck garlic cloves for 25 seconds, sip some water, and then consume a range of foods reported to remove the stench left behind by this popular member of the onion family. Afterwards, the authors analyzed the levels on the subjects’ breath of the four volatile chemicals responsible for the odor of garlic (diallyl disulfide, allyl mercaptan, allyl methyl disulfide, and allyl methyl sulfide).

And the top food fixers were… mint, apple, and lettuce.

The researchers discovered that two mechanisms were involved in deodorizing the scent of the garlic: enzymes (found in the raw foods, which helped to destroy the odor) and phenolic compounds (found in both the raw and cooked versions, which destroyed the volatiles).

They stumbled upon the idea of testing apples by pure happenstance.

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“In a prior study we had done, we were doing a test where we should have gotten really high garlic fault levels, but they were really low,” Dr. Sheryl Barringer, study author and professor and department chair in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the Ohio State University, told Yahoo Beauty.

She and her colleagues even questioned whether or not the machine they were using to take measurements was broken. “We were trying to figure it out, when the person who was eating the garlic mentioned, ‘You know, right before I came in, I had eaten an apple.’ And we thought, ‘Is that the answer?’ And yes, it was: Eating an apple was very effective.”

Barringer further explained that heating the apple or lettuce could also reduce the pungent garlic odor. “The cooking didn’t harm the phenolics — the cooking just removed the enzymes,” she said. “At times, when the food was raw, it [the effect] was better — but other times, it didn’t make a difference if the food was raw or cooked. It had the same effect.”

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While the researchers tested the effects of green tea, it didn’t make the stink go away — a result that surprised Barringer. “Some people have reported green tea working, which made me think, ‘Did we use a green tea that just didn’t have very much phenolics in it?’” she says.

A handful of mint, apple slices, and lettuce was usually enough do the trick. Since mint had a higher deodorization level than all the volatile compounds measured, Barringer added that popping in a breath mint — and chomping on a few mint sprigs — may have a double effect.

“There’s that minty-fresh feeling, and that minty odor [from the mint] can mask any residual garlic that might still be there,” she concluded.

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