Monday, June 15, 2009
Pee sniffers help science
After a feed of asparagus, does your pee smell funny, like boiled cabbage, vegetable soup, or even asparagus? Scientists have recruited pee sniffers to help them find the compounds responsible and the proportion of “detectors” versus “non-detectors”.
To make the asparagus plant less attractive to parasites it produces a compound called asparagusic acid. This same compound, when eaten, is metabolised to other sulphur-containing compounds that provide the characteristic bouquet of your pee after you eat asparagus. Although we all excrete the same compounds after eating asparagus, only around one in two people from a Caucasian background, and nine out of ten from a Chinese background can detect the odour.
Asparagusic acid and its metabolites are harmless. So is their aroma. To me anyway, being a non-detector.