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May 11th, 2009


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09:32 am - Asparagus
It is the brief Asparagus Window here in Britain and so gourmands are making the most of it by eating lots and lots of asparagus. But - and here you may feel that this blog has reached an all-time low :-) - what about the effect on the smell of your urine?

Until I started typing this entry, I had a vague feeling that some people's metabolisms could break down the chemicals in asparagus, and others could not, and therefore excreted them in urine, giving it a distinctive smell, and that this has been linked to a single gene.

However, I just stopped and read wikipedia, to double check the name of the chemical responsible (asparagusic acid) and discovered that scientific opinion has moved on.

In the 1980s three studies from France, China and Israel published results showing that producing odorous urine from asparagus was a universal human characteristic. The Israeli study found that from their 307 subjects all of those who could smell 'asparagus urine' could detect it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, even if the person who produced it could not detect it himself. Thus, it is now believed that most people produce the odorous compounds after eating asparagus, but only about 22% of the population have the autosomal genes required to smell them.
So, that's interesting isn't it? I do have this gene, and I am currently entertained by the fragrance of asparagus whenever I go to the loo.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:lamentables
Date:May 11th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)
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I'm a smeller. Eeeuw.
We've been getting it in our veg box recently and whilst I enjoy eating asparagus, I dislike peeing it. abrinsky doesn't like eating it either, so I have no opportunity for gathering further empirical evidence.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 10:26 am (UTC)
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I don't mind the smell to be honest, though i see from wikipedia it's sulphur compounds which are generally foul
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From:trixieleitz
Date:May 11th, 2009 09:21 am (UTC)
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I love asparagus, and either I'm not a smeller or I don't indulge enough. Clearly, I need to get myself that asparagus bed :)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 10:26 am (UTC)
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Oh, I was thinking that too
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From:vilakins
Date:May 11th, 2009 09:33 am (UTC)
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I'm not a smeller and had therefore assumed it was just Greg who was affected since he is one.

I can however roll my tongue (also a genetic thing), and for that matter do the Vulcan greeting, and the Bewitched twitch. Not simultaneously though; the tongue doesn't go well with the twitch.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 10:27 am (UTC)
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These geentic markers are interesting - I can Vulcan but I can't tongue-roll.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
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Yes, it may not be. Tongue-curling is I know. Also ear-wiggling I think (my bro can do that).
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From:vilakins
Date:May 11th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
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The tongue roll's genetic, but I'm not sure about the others. I put them in there for a laugh. I did hear that people can learn the Vulcan greeting by training their fingers apart. I've always been able to separate them between any two.
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From:kalypso_v
Date:May 12th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
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I can't say I've ever noticed the smell, but I don't really see why it would be an issue unless people are in the habit of sniffing unflushed toilets... And it would be an awful shame to miss out on asparagus. Appropriately my mother is just back from Schwetzingen, a town which is so fond of asparagus that they have an annual Spargelfest and a statue of a lady selling it.

Yesterday I was startled to find a Vulcan greeting joke in Pynchon's latest novel. I think it was the page after the cricket joke.

[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:May 12th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
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Exactly! This is why I never knew I wasn't a smeller.

We love asparagus too and there's lots of it in the shops in the right season. The rest of the time there's tinned, but the only thing I ever do with that is make asparagus rolls.

What were the jokes? And Pynchon made a cricket one?
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
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It's tasty too
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From:despotliz
Date:May 11th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
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I was told the exciting asparagus-urine fact at a dinner party I went to where the starter was asparagus and the flat had only one toilet, so we swiftly discovered who the smellers were. I am not one.
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From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
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Excellent research opportunity, and a good excuse for a party, though one would have to be careful not to raise inappropriate expectation.
From:jthijsen
Date:May 11th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
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A clear case of double your pleasure, then.
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From:communicator
Date:May 11th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
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that might be slightly overstating the case :-)

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