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Asparagus pee- it doesn't happen to everyone?!?

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Asparagus pee- it doesn't happen to everyone?!?

Asparagus has been long known as a low calorie food that is high in potassium, folate, Vitamin C, and fiber (green asparagus), and high in antioxidants, as well as delicious.  Historically, not only was it eaten as a vegetable (apparently the Egyptians were big fans) but it was used as medicine because it has a diuretic property (meaning it makes you pee).  Why am I talking about this particular subject?  I served asparagus the other night and it became quite the topic of conversation between a few nurses...and everyone had a different theory, and some claimed that their pee didn't smell, so I decided to delve deeper, and I must say, I just proved my theory wrong!!  I have to give kudos to a friend that doesn't know a lick about geography, but knows about asparagus pee!!

Back to asparagus...along with making you pee, because of the compounds present in asparagus as it is metabolized in the body, some of the compounds are sulfur related (sulfur usually gives that rotten egg smell).  What are the exact derivatives making some of the pee flowery and some of it nasty resulting in that very specific asparagus scent?  methanethiol, dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, bis methane, dimethyl sulfoxide, and dimethyl sulfone.  The first two tend to smell more pungent and the last two more sweet...and that's how you get the ever-dreaded asparagus pee!!  (At least I dread it, but always forget about it until it happens!)

Apparently the smell is strongest after eating younger/fresh asparagus...so if you eat it and you don't get super smelly pee, you can tell your host that their asparagus wasn't fresh!  Also, it starts within 15-30 minutes of ingestion, which is super fast!

In the 1980's there were three studies in France, China, and Israel that showed that it is a direct human trait to have asparagus smelling pee after they eat it. I had learned years ago that some people had an enzyme in their bladder that negated the smell, so some people didn't have the smelly pee, and that was the info I had been living off of my whole life...turns out that that theory was disproved by the Israeli study that showed that 22% of the worlds population simply has an autosomal gene (meaning that it affects one of the 22 non-sex chromosome of the 24 that you get from your parents in your DNA) that allows them to detect the smell in the urine.  So, whilst everyone excretes the smell, not everyone can smell it, weird right?  They also found that the people who claim that their urine doesn't smell (because they can't smell it) are able to have the scent detected by other people with the gene!  I try not to go around smelling peoples pee, but I may have to prove this one out, seeing as I am the only person in my family who has asparagus pee (or so they claim!!!)

Because of the high amounts of potassium, if you have renal failure or insufficiency, you should be careful of your intake.  But, to everyone else, eat up!  It is great for pregnant women due to the high amounts of fiber AND folate (to prevent neural tube defects in your little growing ones).  And no longer feel the need to be embarrassed about asparagus pee, apparently it happens to us all, just feel empowered that you are one of the 22% that has super smelling powers!

Yours in Good Health
B

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