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Asparagus and Urine Odor – What Causes It

Posted on May 3, 2008

asparagusDoes asparagus make your urine smell funny? If so, you’re among sbout 50% of the population that notices an odor in their urine after eating asparagus.

Marcel Proust wrote about the situation in Swann’s Way:

… the precious essence that I recognized again when, all night long following a dinner at which i had eaten them, they played, in farces as crude and poetic as a fairy play by Shakespeare, at changing my chamber pot into a jar of perfume.

This change in your chamber pot is caused by a certain sulfur compound in asparagus called mercaptan that imparts a strange odor to the urine. It’s the same compound that gives skunks their offensive odor.

Nobody’s really sure why only half the world’s urine takes on this skunky odor after eating asparagus, but there are theories.

One theory is that only half the population has the gene that enables the body to break down mercaptan. Another theory is that everyone’s urine smells after eating asparagus, but only half the population can smell this odor in their own urine.

Some studies have proven one theory and other studies have proven the other theory. Whatever the truth is, there’s no reason to be concerned if you can or can’t smell something funny in your urine after eating asparagus. It’s perfectly harmless and normal either way.

Now, whether you will find it as crude and poetic as a fairy play by Shakespeare is another question.



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