Ask Frank- Garlic

Follow-up questions on Ass-paragus, asked by Foods for the Soul.

Before reading on, I highly recommend trying one of her amazing recipes, and while it’s partying in the oven, come back and read this.

“On another smelly food tangent, do you know what compound it is in garlic that makes the taste stick around in our mouths for so long? If so, is there a way to counteract that?”

There are hundreds of compounds in garlic, but in fresh garlic, the main perpetrator of halitosis (bad breath) is a compound called allyl methyl sulfide (AMS). The cause of halitosis can stem from other sulfur compounds within the mouth, but allyl methyl sulfide possesses the unique quality in that our bodies cannot effectively metabolize the compound. Current research in this area has identified three naturally occurring sulfur compounds in our mouth that contribute to halitosis; consumption of garlic increases these three sulfur compounds, as well as brings along the addition of another, and the devil, allyl methyl sulfide.

The devil, AMS.

The question currently remains whether garlic halitosis originates in the mouth, or in the gut. We all may have experienced a similar effect in that as much as we brush and chug mouthwash, the smell just persists. One fact is determined: AMS cannot be effectively metabolized by our bodies, which leads to two hypotheses. The first hypothesis suggests that AMS induced halitosis stems from the oral cavity (AMS hangs around in the mouth and causes bad breath). However, this seems to be countered by the fact that significant concentrations of AMS were detected in the urine and alveolar air (lungs) of subjects participating in garlic ingestion. Therefore, a degree of absorption (not necessarily metabolism) of AMS in the gut is possible; the new hypothesis suggests that garlic induced halitosis stems from the gut itself, that AMS is absorbed and re-emitted at specific sites in the body, which is the reason why a shallow rinse-mouthwash-vigorous-teeth-brushing gig usually provides a less than desired effect on the elimination of halitosis.

On that note, a properly utilized toothpaste containing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide eliminates at least four of the sulfur compounds (naturally occurring and garlic-induced) in the oral cavity. A hydrogen peroxide gargle is also purported to work, if you’re inclined to do so. Sadly, for both, AMS still hangs around. The garlic halitosis completely dissipates as your body dispels of AMS; this perhaps, is a result of the natural degradation of AMS, or a simple rejection and excretion of the compound by your body. That being said, don’t avoid garlic. It’s got a ton of health benefits.

Pungent yet flavorful.


Other uses of garlic. AMS, that pesky bastard. Mouth vs. gut. Get your garlic on here.