Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The smell of asparagus

I like it when science and humor cross-pollinate, but sometimes it's even funnier when it's completely serious. You just can't make up stuff like this:

Br Med J  1980;281:1676-1678 (20 December),

A polymorphism of the ability to smell urinary metabolites of asparagus.

M Lison, S H Blondheim, R N Melmed
The urinary excretion of (an) odorous substance(s) after eating asparagus is not an inborn error of metabolism as has been supposed. The detection of the odour constitutes a specific smell hypersensitivity. Those who could smell the odour in their own urine could all smell it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, whether or not that person was able to smell it himself. Thresholds for detecting the odour appeared to be bimodal in distribution, with 10% of 307 subjects tested able to smell it at high dilutions, suggesting a genetically determined specific hypersensitivity.

Discoblog has a longer exposition on the topic:

NCBI ROFL: Asparagus, urine, farts, and Benjamin Franklin (Part I)

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