Fresh Living

asparagus_2.jpgLast Foodie Friday, when I posted a possible explanation for why asparagus makes our wee-wee smell funny, many of you wanted more information.  So I did what anyone should do when they’re asked a health question they’re not qualified to answer–I asked a doctor!  Dr. Shilpa Saxena is someone I hope you’ll be getting to know more and more on this blog–she’s an integrative physician, not to mention a friend and a seriously smart person.

So here’s her answer to the perennial question: why does my pee smell after I eat asparagus?  You might be surprised by what you read!

Around our home, it’s just not Spring until that tender,
sweet vegetable that is asparagus pokes up through the newly warming earth. 
For some, those delicate tips usher in a season of fresh dining and outdoor
grilling, but for others the thought of the dreaded ‘asparagus-induced urine
odor’ forces them to pass on our Spring delight.  Why does asparagus
cause smelly urine?  It’s a very common question that has sparked
many a wives’ tale….so, if you’ve ever wondered, here’s the real
story about asparagus and smelly urine.

Asparagus contains a unique acid, appropriately named ‘asparagusic
acid’, found only in this delicious vegetable.  When asparagus gets
processed for elimination, the asparagusic acid is broken down into 6 different
sulfur-containing compounds with varying intensities and types of smells
ranging from sweet to pungent.  The way these compounds are used by the
body dictates the predominant odor that we may experience.  This is why some
people experience a pungent, ammonia type odor while a small, yet lucky few,
enjoy a more perfumed fragrance.  It also seems that the younger the
asparagus, the more asparagusic acid, and therefore, the more intense the odor.

Recent research has proven that asparagus urine odor is
universal among us humans, however, our ability to smell the odor is determined
by our genes!  Believe it or not, one such study has concluded that only
22% of the population has the gene necessary to smell any of the compounds
present in urine.  So, if you’re one of the lucky 22%, you’ve
identified a very unique talent, albeit it one you may wish to leave off your
resume.  Either way, asparagus is a great source of iron, folic acid, thiamine
(Vitamin B1) and dietary fiber….so eat up and maybe hold your nose!!

Shilpa P. Saxena, M.D. is a Family Practice Physician specializing
in Functional Medicine in the Tampa, Florida area.  Visit her at

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