Why Does Asparagus Make Pee Smell Funky?

Why Does Asparagus Make Pee Smell Funky?

If you’ve had a small forkful, or even a measly stalk, of asparagus, you’ll know it the next time you’re in bathroom.

Why? That unmistakable smell that only 40 percent of people can detect.

But why does it smell, and why can only half of the population smell it? The asparagus pee phenomenon has a pungent air of mystery about it that scientists are still trying to answer:

Why the stink?


The aptly named asparagusic acid, a chemical only found in asparagus, is believed to be the culprit. When veggies are digested, our bodies break down the acid into sulphur-containing compounds, which are responsible for other noteworthy body odour profiles like rotten eggs/cabbage. There are plenty of other sulphuric foods that can make your pee smell weird (Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, salmon, alcohol and coffee), too.

Why do men complain about it more?

Harvard researchers conducted a study in 2016, querying nearly 7,000 people if they could detect a smell in their urine post-asparagus consumption: 40 per cent said yes, including more men than women.

Related: How Often Should You Pee? And Other Urine-Related Questions, Answered

Why do people claim they can’t smell anything?

Though there’s no scientific community consensus, there’s a simple belief that some people produce asparagus-stench pee, and some just don’t. This could be due to particular gut microbiomes metabolizing it differently. You can’t smell what’s not there!

Is there remedy?

Nope.  Asparagusic acid is present in both raw and cooked asparagus, so it doesn’t matter how you prepare it –  boil, fry, braise, pickle, barbecue, etc. If it’s in your genes to smell the aftereffects, you’ll smell it.

Photo Credit: Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock.com; DronG/Shutterstock.com

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