Let’s get this out of the way. We’re talking about pee. If you’re going to get weird about body stuff then take a hike because I don’t have time for you right now, I’m trying to get scientific.
Congratulations, if you’ve made it this far, you’re mature and you’re ready to get to the bottom of why, even if you’ve only eaten 2 pieces, your pee smells so different after eating asparagus.
So let’s do this. Put your lab coats on and let’s talk about chemicals. Asparagus contains asparagusic acid, which our body then breaks down into many organosulfurs. An organosulfur is an organic molecular compound that contains sulfur, which is often associated with foul smelling odors. However, they are also responsible for the smell of awesome-smelling items like garlic and shiitake mushrooms, so it’s not all bad.
Back to business. When we eat asparagus, our body digests it and we break down the asparagusic acid into multiple of these organic compounds that contain sulfur. These molecular compounds are volatile which means they have a low boiling point and evaporate into the air quickly. This means they are able to enter a gaseous state at room temperature and this is how the smell reaches us so quickly when we pee.
But what about people who have never experienced this? Apparently 20-40% of people out there have no idea what we’re talking about. So, there are two options: they lack the ability to produce this smell in the first place or they lack the ability to smell it.
The scientific evidence seems to be pretty mixed, but in 2010 23andMe, a personal genetics company, looked at this phenomenon and found that a mutation within a cluster of olfactory receptor genes (these are responsible for us being able to smell) on chromosome 1 might be the reason some people can’t detect the smell, but who can ever really be sure?
To me, this whole thing took me back to 9th grade science where we tasted pieces of paper that supposedly should taste extremely bitter. You were either a ‘taster’ or a ‘non-taster’. I was a non-taster. Back then I was jealous, but now it gives me a new perspective on these ‘non-smellers’. If you never did this in school then I’m sorry you read this paragraph because you probably think I’m making this up.
Final thoughts: I f**king love asparagus, no matter what my pee says.