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The sulfur smell from eating asparagus

Four in ten people notice that their urine has a strong sulfur odor after eating asparagus. When the body lacks an enzyme to break down an amino acid called aspartic acid, a sulfur-smelling compound is formed. If you notice this smell after you eat asparagus, there is no reason to worry because the compound has no adverse affect on the body.

A variety of different chemicals - all breakdown products of asparagus - can be found in the urine in connection with the "asparagus smell". These chemicals generally fall within a chemical category called mercaptans (or to use a more modern term, thiols). They include dimethyl sulfide, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl sulfoxide, bis-(methylthio)methane, S-methyl thioacrylate, S-methyl-3-(metyhylthio)thiopropionate and dimethyl sulphone. Different people form different amounts of these compounds after eating asparagus, and many people cannot smell the odor, even when they produce the compounds.

A Natural Diuretic

Asparagus is a very good source of potassium (288 mg per cup) and quite low in sodium (19.8 mg per cup. Its mineral profile, combined with an active amino acid in asparagus, asparagine, gives asparagus a strong diuretic effect. Asparagine can also be responsible for the strong odor often produced in the urine after asparagus is eaten--a harmless and temporary effect. Historically, asparagus has been used to treat problems involving swelling, such as arthritis and rheumatism, and may also be useful for PMS-related water retention.