When faced with a cool, creamy pat of Brie cheese, it can be hard to keep fresh breath in mind. After all, this French creation was once known as the King's Cheese, and for good reason. Brie offers the palate a subtle array of flavors, textures and aromas. It just happens to reliably leave halitosis in its wake, too.
Why does Brie lead to bad breath? After all, it may smell unusual, but many people find that it tastes delicious. So, whence the disparity?
The origins of the cheese's flavor and its assault on fresh breath are one and the same: bacteria. Not just any old microbes, either, but a group of particularly pungent penicillin-related pathogens.
Like many other cheeses, Brie is made with cow's milk, rennet and salt. However, what makes this particular variety unique is that it is unpasteurized (meaning its microbial load can be a bit larger), and that it contains particular strains of the Penicillum genus of bacteria.
Most Bries are injected with either Penicillium candidum or Penicillium camemberti as a way to get their cheese mold started. Alternatively, some Bries utilize Brevibacterium linens. All three of these species of microorganisms give of specific volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), ones your nose instantly recognizes.
A study published in the French journal Lait noted that the bacteria used in soft cheeses give off large amounts of hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulfide, ketones and ammonia. Hydrogen sulfide is what gives rotten eggs their trademark scent. Dimethyl sulfide, on the other hand, is mainly responsible for the smell of spoiled cabbage.
If that doesn't curdle your blood and sour your breath, then listen to this. An article published in the British Medical Journal - invitingly titled "Cheese, Toes and Mosquitoes" - pointed out that Brevibacterium linens can be found in two common places: in soft cheeses like Brie or Limburger, and in between your toes.
That's right. The same microbe responsible for making Brie smell like feet also causes your feet to smell like feet. Eat certain varieties of Brie, and it is B. linens that gives your fresh breath a, shall we say, certain podiatric perfume.
Is there any way to skirt this terrible side effect of such a tasty cheese? Well, short of skipping the Brie altogether, the best remedy is to rinse with a specialty breath freshener, especially one designed to neutralize VSCs. As a preventative measure, you may also want to consider using a probiotics rinse once a day.