Government-funded researchers sought to discover why some humans can smell asparagus in urine, and others can’t.
The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health awarded Harvard University two grants totaling $3 million last year for a survey of nearly 7,000 men and women. The participants were asked to sniff their urine to detect “asparagus pee,” the Washington Free Beacon reports.
The researchers found that a “large proportion of individuals of European-American descent cannot smell ‘asparagus pee,” due to “the unpleasant odor present in urine after people eat asparagus,” Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said in a blog post.
Around 58 percent of men and 62 percent of women cannot smell the pungent odor in urine after eating asparagus, and researchers found 871 different genetic reasons some people can’t smell asparagus “ansomnia,” the pungent odor asparagus gives to urine.
After completing the survey, questions remained, Lorelei Mucci, associate professor at T.H. Chan and lead author on the study said. “First and foremost perhaps is: why such a delicious delicacy as asparagus results in such a pernicious odor, and what are the selective pressures driving genetic variations that lead to asparagus anosmia?”
Even though some may be able to detect asparagus in urine, eating healthy foods like vegetables is worth it to prevent heart disease and cancer, the researchers said.
One of the two studies contributing to the asparagus survey is a wide-ranging cancer research project, which received $2,313,689 in 2016, aimed at finding why diets with lots of vegetables contribute to reduced coronary heart disease risk.