drinking milk

Got garlic breath? Drink milk!

If you plan on cozying up with your loved one on Valentine’s day next week, you might want to ditch the glass of wine during dinner and reach for a cold glass of milk. Yes, milk. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science, drinking milk while eating garlic-heavy food can reduce the bad breath associated with garlic consumption.

A 2010 study conducted by researchers from the department of Food Science and Technology at The Ohio State University found both fat-free and whole milk lowered the concentration of volatile odor-emitting compounds from garlic in the nose and mouth.

Due to its higher fat content, whole milk was found to be more effective. Water was the major component in milk responsible for the deodorisation of volatiles. The researchers found although drinking milk after eating a garlic-infused meal can still help, the drinking it during the meal will have better results.

In tests with raw and cooked cloves, milk was shown to “significantly reduce” concentrations of the chemicals which give garlic its distinctive flavour and long-lasting smell.

One of the compounds – allyl methyl sulphide (AMS) – cannot be broken down during digestion, and so it is released from the body in the breath and sweat.

Even brushing your teeth is no cure, previous tests have concluded. It is thought milk fat suppresses the sulphurous properties of garlic.

Although the herb has many health-boosting properties, its notorious pungency puts many people off including it in their diet.

Professor Sheryl Barringer, who carried out the study, said: “Garlic has been used in medicine for thousands of years. It is also an excellent source of magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and selenium. It helps in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and also reduces the risk of cancer.

“However, the consumption of garlic causes bad breath and body odour which can last from several hours to days.”

There are other foods which are thought to limit garlic breath. They include prunes, basil, aubergine and some varieties of mushroom – but milk was better at masking the volatile compounds responsible for the smell.

Journal Reference:

  1. Areerat Hansanugrum,
  2. Sheryl A. Barringer

Article first published online: 17 AUG 2010

DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01715.x