And So it begins – Asparagus and Smelly Wee!

Asparagus fieldSo are you or are you not a genetic mutant? I’ve mentioned before about how some of us have a slight genetic change that means that it was believed that asparagus makes our wee smell strange (bit like cooked cabbage). I find myself drawn to this little area every year asparagus comes into season. There’s no law against it actually although I will concede it is a bit of an odd fascination. Perhaps this comes from a slight inferiority complex as mine does not take on a strange smell despite how much I eat. The nature of genetics is such that the volume you eat won’t make a difference; this is a binary issue; but this doesn’t stop me necking loads.

Anyway, my latest bit of research has thrown some new light on the situation as well as more interesting (stick with me) facts.  So here is a bullet point list of asparagus facts:

  • The effect was first noticed by ancient Greeks, and formally described in the UK is 1735. It was reported in The Lancet in 1836.
  • The initial view was that ‘excretors’ (like some amphibian…) broke the spears down differently and released the sulphur in a way that ended up in their pee.
  • Hence this, as I see it, mutation was in fact a dominant gene inherited from one parent.
  • Some pregnant non-excretors have supposedly ‘turned’ into excretors which implies the compounds pass through the placenta to a foetus with the gene inherited form the father…
  • The above is challenged though as there is more than one compound involved so it makes genetic changes unlikely. This has led to another interesting theory:

Now you have to agree that is a remarkable and thoroughly interesting set of bullet points leading to a stunning theory. You’ll be the centre of attention at your next social event; it would not surprise me if they made a film about this.

Recent studies have tested the ‘nose’ theory above. This basically involved stuffing your face with asparagus, waiting, peeing in a glass and then sniffing yours AND others to see if the difference is in your nose or your….

urinejarThe results are fascinating. They really are. Click on the sample jar to read the full study and results. It will be one of your better decisions and you’ll come away much better informed and, I think, slightly superior…

So what did they find? Well, 8% did not produce smelly wee, or at least in concentrations big enough to detect. No need for shame.

6% of people could not smell the odour in any sample. This means that they suffer a specific anosmia. Before you all highlight and google this means a loss of the sense of smell. It is one of those words I will chuck out there now like everyone knows its meaning. The temptation to insert ‘nose’ in that sentence for comedic purposes was strong. Again it is probable that the ability (for it is that) to smell is not absent but is unable to detect unless in much higher concentrations. They did not, for very understandable reasons, go onto to test this. Probably on H&S advice.

So there you are. Updated and fully informed on the latest research into asparagus pee. I pass the baton to you in the knowledge that if you are reading this part of the post you are as hooked as me. That’s one more of us and one less of them. You are ready to leave the temple.

How you use this is up to you. Obviously a quick session with close friends to work out if you are an excretor and/or an anosmic is a fun way to spend the evening. Part of me wonders if there is an opportunity for some sort of themed party here – bit like Ann Summers or Murder/Mystery. Part of me thinks I need to move on.

Finally, asparagus will be in our boxes from 9/10/16 whilst it lasts so if you’re not a member of our scheme click here and use the code 75BLOG to get 75% off your first fruit/veg boxes.


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