Give Now

A Moment of Science

True Love and Garlic

Garlic-lovers, and the unfortunate people who love them, are well aware of the reeking breath that’s caused by the tiniest bit of garlic. So why don’t  products like toothpaste and mouthwash help lessen the stench? What makes garlic so persistently stinky?

Garlic owes its smell to a sulfur compound. The fact that it stinks isn’t unique; sulfur compounds are renowned for their nasty odors. In fact, the sulfur compounds found in intestinal gas are responsible for the smell of flatulence. Sulfur compounds are very potent considering that they make up just one percent of the total intestinal gas released!

Now that you know the fate of other sulfur compounds in the body, let’s get back to garlic. When you eat garlic-laden food, the sulfur compounds aren’t expelled by the intestines. Instead, they’re absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, along with other harmless gases and nutrients. From there they circulate throughout the body, including into the lungs. This is what causes you to turn into a garlic-breathing dragon. Toothpaste and mouthwash may help for a few minutes, but the smell will keep emanating from your lungs for days.

Even people who take garlic supplements–or rub garlic compounds into their joints to ease symptoms of arthritis–end up with garlic breath because the mechanism is the same. Once the sulfur compounds in garlic are absorbed into the bloodstream, they’ll make their odoriferous exit through the lungs. How can you ease the social stigma of this sulfur compound you so adore? Surround yourself with equally stinky, garlic-loving friends!

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science