Perspiration itself is nearly odorless, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unpleasant body odor generally arises when sweat and body oils interact with bacteria or sulfur compounds. A garlic-like body odor may occur as a side effect of certain drugs and supplements. Rarely, it may signal an underlying medical condition. Consult your health care provider if you sweat excessively or if you suddenly develop an intense form of body odor. A series of tests can determine the cause of the problem; prescription deodorants may help to address the problem.
Foods in the onion (allium) family, including onion, leek, garlic and chive, contain pungent sulfur compounds that permeate through skin pores. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, garlic's odor can persist for days and may emanate from the mouth, skin and sweat glands.
Certain sulfur-based medications, including dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), can cause body odor and bad breath similar to garlic. The health information website Drugs.com notes that this side effect may persist for up to 72 hours.
A popular seasoning used in Middle Eastern, Indian and Mexican cuisine, cumin is renowned for its earthy, warm fragrance. In large quantities, it may cause garlic-like body odor or bad breath.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the body's apocrine glands secrete an oily sweat when a person is suffering from anxiety or emotional stress. Sulfur-producing bacteria thrive in these fatty compounds; they produce a chemical by-product that smells similar to garlic odor.