Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Whenever I eat asparagus, my urine has a terrible smell. Should I stop eating it?

Asparagus contain compounds which are broken down by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract during the digestion process. The breakdown products are responsible for the somewhat putrid smell.

Whenever I eat asparagus, my urine has a terrible smell. Should I stop eating it?

Asparagus contain compounds which are broken down by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract during the digestion process. The breakdown products are responsible for the somewhat putrid smell.  (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
Asparagus contain compounds which are broken down by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract during the digestion process. The breakdown products are responsible for the somewhat putrid smell. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

Alan Wein, M.D., is chief of the division of urology at Penn Medicine and co-director of the urologic oncology and incontinence programs at Penn Medicine.

No, not if you like it. Asparagus contain compounds that are broken down by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract during the digestion process. The breakdown products are responsible for the somewhat putrid smell. 

Some feel that the problem occurs only in people who have the specific gene or genes responsible for the enzyme, which break down these compounds. So, those who lack the gene do not have this problem.

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Others feel that it is common to break down these compounds during digestion and only certain people have the genes that enable them to detect the bad odor. Those without the gene would not appreciate the smell.

People who have the gene for breakdown may not have the ones that enable them to “appreciate” what they have produced. People who have the genetic makeup that enables them to smell the odor are not necessarily those who have the makeup that enables them to produce it. In any case, it doesn’t mean anything is terribly wrong.

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Check Up covers major health events in our region and offers everything from personal health advice to an expert look at health reform. Read about some of our bloggers here.

For Inquirer.com. Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section

Michael Cohen id the president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Horsham.

Daniel Hoffman is the president of Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates (PBRA) in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania, a healthcare research and consulting company specializing in key account positioning and messaging.

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