Beer makes fresh breath funky, skunky
SUMMARY: And it doesn't take a breathalyzer to notice it, either.
Posted: April 11, 2012
Americans love their beer. Maybe we're no Germany or Denmark, but we can sure throw it back. Yet, while a bottle of suds can be a great way to relax after a long day, it's also virtually guaranteed to replace fresh breath with halitosis.
Whether it's pale ale, rich lager or dark stout, people in the U.S. seemingly can't get enough suds. According to the Beer Institute, the average American drinks 29 gallons of beer per year - or about two-thirds of a pint each day. The organization (whose employees you have to envy a little) estimates that, in 2010 alone, merchants shipped close to 6.4 billion gallons of beer to American consumers.
Very roughly, that's the same as 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, all brimming with brew.
While the idea of doing the backstroke through a sea of stout may be thrilling to some, it's important to note that even a sip off a cold one can leave fresh breath gasping for air. That's because beer is full of volatile aroma compounds that taint the scent of your breath, leaving you with immediate oral odor.
According to an analysis published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing, these compounds include:
- Acetaldehyde, which has a smell like nuts or musty straw (and , incidentally, is often blamed for causing hangovers)
- Acetone, which by itself smells like nail polish remover
- Methyl acetate, which has a glue-like scent
- Butanol, which smells similar to glass cleaner
- Ethanol, which essentially smells no different than pure rubbing alcohol (since the two are practically the same)
- Hexanol, which smells something like tree bark
As you can see, that cold brewski can do a real number on your breath, even after just a few swallows. However, all hope is not lost. If you're hoping to impress someone at a bar or restaurant over beers, consider carrying specialty breath freshening mints or mouth-wetting lozenges. These products can help neutralize the odd odors that come from beer, even as they give you clean, fresh breath.
And FYI for those of you with an ulterior motive here: Specialty breath fresheners will not help you beat a breathalyzer, so forget it. Law enforcement agencies use devices that measure your blood alcohol content based on the air from deep in your lungs, called "alveolar breath." (This is why taking a breathalyzer test involves blowing and blowing and blowing, often for 10 seconds or more.) So while your breath may be fresh, it can still tell the police all they need to know.