The nose knows: why urine smells bad after eating asparagus


We’re just going to get right to it here: ever enjoy a meal that includes asparagus, only to go to the bathroom and crinkle your nose from the distinct “I ate asparagus” urine odor? I know this isn’t your everyday conversation, but let’s face it, most of us have experienced this odd phenomenon. So what gives?

According to Dr. Roshini Raj, “Your body breaks down asparagus during digestion into sulfur-containing chemicals that give your urine a distinctive odor.” Raj is the assistant professor of medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center and also the author of What the Yuck?!.

So, if anyone would know a thing or two about the oddities and yuckiness of the human body, it’s her. She explains that about one half of people pick up on the smell, but for those who don’t smell it, it may be a warning. Darn, who would think not smelling that unpleasant odor might be a bad thing?

Some professionals suggest that the inability to detect the asparagus smell in urine could indicate that they may not be able to pick up on other smells, like dangerous ones such as gas leaks. Yikes.

Why urine smells bad after eating asparagus

However, many theories about the asparagus urine smell abound.

Some suggest it’s a highly complicated process because 21 different substances in asparagus have been identified as the possible odor-causing culprit. Which one or ones of those 21 it may be has yet to be narrowed down.

Some research says this should be chalked up to genetics, others say it’s all about metabolism and still other people suggest odor detection abilities or lack of them play a role.

Smell or no smell, keep eating it.

The George Mateljan Foundation’s web site, The World’s Healthiest Foods, says that “no research studies have suggested a link between asparagus consumption, urine odor, and health risk. There are no studies to indicate that a strong urine odor from asparagus is a reason for us to exclude asparagus from our diet or that health benefits from asparagus vary along with the presence or absence of urine odor.”

For more about asparagus, its health benefits and this whole unusual urine smell discussion, read here.

Speaking of health benefits . . .

The health benefits of asparagus

Asparagus is an excellent food.

Get a whiff of this (sorry): It’s filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that play a role in everything from killing bacteria in our digestive tract and keeping inflammatory issues at bay to slowing the aging process and preventing a host of cancers.

To learn more about this amazing food, check out this article.

So, keep on eating your asparagus. The health benefits far outweigh the smell and, as is the case with most things in life (not just food), we think it’s more important to focus on the multitude of good it does for us, rather than the one little thing about it that bothers us for all of 30 seconds or less.

Go for it!

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