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Asparagus – 30 Minutes To Stinkville

June 11, 2009

I love asparagus and it just so happens to be one of a handful of vegetables I will actually eat.  The only thing I dislike about this vegetable is the smelly pee that comes with it.

With that being said, I decided to run my own little experiment. I wanted to determine how long it took from the time I ate asparagus to the time it took me to smell it. The last three times I have eaten asparagus I have timed myself to Stinkville.  It is between 15 and 30 minutes.  But why do I stink?

Apparently no one knows for sure what makes pee smell after eating asparagus.

  • In 1891 a scientist named “Nencki” had so very little to do that he convinced four guys to eat seven kilograms of asparagus (that’s about three and a half pounds each). He collected the pertinent pee, worked some medieval magic on it, and concluded that the smell was due to a metabolite called methanethiol.
  • In 1975 a chemist from California claimed in Science that gas chromatography had fingered a different culprit: S-Methyl Thioesters, to be precise. No methanethiol.
  • Then there’s the 1980 reference in the British Medical Journal that simply refers to “metabolites.” Another asparagus scholar favors “six sulfur-containing compounds.”

For decades most thought that there were two genes involved. One to give a person stinky asparagus pee and another gene to be able to smell it.  Most of the articles/stories on the web refer to these two genes. However, the research to back up the two gene theory was all done before 1980.

Discovery reports the following:

Early investigators thought genetics had divided the world into stinkers and nonstinkers. That was until 1980, when three researchers had the presence of mind to wave pee from the nonstinkers under the noses of the stinkers.
Lo and behold, the problem proved to be one not of producing the stinky pee but of being able to sniff it out.

So what does that mean?  Everyone’s pee smells after eating asparagus, it is just that some people can’t smell it. 🙂

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Debbie Kusleika permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:38 am

    I can smell it and it stinks. RK cannot smell it, lucky him. I think it’s because he drinks alot more water than I do.

  2. nancyk5000 permalink*
    June 12, 2009 9:11 am

    RK is the only person I know who can NOT smell it. Lucky! You should smell his pee (gross I know) But I want to know if the theory holds true. That everyone’s pee smells. Do it for science.

  3. June 12, 2009 12:14 pm

    My pee doesn’t smell after eating asparagus – but I know a lot of people who make this same claim.

  4. nancyk5000 permalink*
    June 12, 2009 4:20 pm

    For science you should have someone who can smell it, smell your pee.

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