Asparagus Pee

Asparagus Pee
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Young infants, and perhaps those with recurrent oxalate kidney stones, should avoid beets. But most commonly, the chief side effect is beeturia, the harmless passage of pink urine, though not all are affected—akin to the malodorous urine (“stinky pee”) that sometimes results from asparagus consumption.

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I just presented evidence from this groundbreaking new series of experiments suggesting beets can significantly improve athletic performance. Can’t be that easy; there has to be some downside.

Well, those who want their kids to get a jump on physical fitness should know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends we not feed vegetables to infants under three months of age—but we shouldn’t be feeding babies anything but breast milk at that age.

What else? Beets do have a lot of oxalates in them, and though the primary means of preventing oxalate kidney stone formation involves meat restriction, and eating more fruits and vegetables, some people are genetically predisposed to oxalate absorption—in which case they might want to instead choose a different high-nitrate plant food to boost their performance.

Other than that theoretical concern, only two side effects were consistently noted in these studies: no deleterious side effects, but subjects did, however, report beeturia (red urine) and red stools.

That’s actually the real name: beeturia, the passage of pink or red urine after the ingestion of beetroot, and it doesn’t happen in everybody, which is kind of interesting.

Same thing with asparagus— only about half the population gets stinky pee from asparagus, whereas the frequency appears greater among Americans, for some reason. Those who produce the odor assume, politely, that everyone does, and those who do not produce it have no idea of the olfactory consequences of asparagus. There is no reason as to why these two opposing factions should converse on this subject; it just wouldn’t come up in conversation. But a brief discourse with one’s colleagues will confirm such differences and verify this state of affairs.

It actually gets curiouser and curiouser. There are not just two types of people in the world, when it comes to asparagus pee, but four. Some people get stinky pee, but apparently genetically don’t have the ability to smell the smelly compounds themselves. Some people are excreters of stinky asparagus pee, while others are non-excreters. However, others are perceivers (able to smell the odor), while others can’t. So, some people think they don’t have stinky pee, but in actuality it’s just not stinky to them.

You’ve got to love nutritional science.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Caleb and teebag.

I just presented evidence from this groundbreaking new series of experiments suggesting beets can significantly improve athletic performance. Can’t be that easy; there has to be some downside.

Well, those who want their kids to get a jump on physical fitness should know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends we not feed vegetables to infants under three months of age—but we shouldn’t be feeding babies anything but breast milk at that age.

What else? Beets do have a lot of oxalates in them, and though the primary means of preventing oxalate kidney stone formation involves meat restriction, and eating more fruits and vegetables, some people are genetically predisposed to oxalate absorption—in which case they might want to instead choose a different high-nitrate plant food to boost their performance.

Other than that theoretical concern, only two side effects were consistently noted in these studies: no deleterious side effects, but subjects did, however, report beeturia (red urine) and red stools.

That’s actually the real name: beeturia, the passage of pink or red urine after the ingestion of beetroot, and it doesn’t happen in everybody, which is kind of interesting.

Same thing with asparagus— only about half the population gets stinky pee from asparagus, whereas the frequency appears greater among Americans, for some reason. Those who produce the odor assume, politely, that everyone does, and those who do not produce it have no idea of the olfactory consequences of asparagus. There is no reason as to why these two opposing factions should converse on this subject; it just wouldn’t come up in conversation. But a brief discourse with one’s colleagues will confirm such differences and verify this state of affairs.

It actually gets curiouser and curiouser. There are not just two types of people in the world, when it comes to asparagus pee, but four. Some people get stinky pee, but apparently genetically don’t have the ability to smell the smelly compounds themselves. Some people are excreters of stinky asparagus pee, while others are non-excreters. However, others are perceivers (able to smell the odor), while others can’t. So, some people think they don’t have stinky pee, but in actuality it’s just not stinky to them.

You’ve got to love nutritional science.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Caleb and teebag.

Doctor's Note

If you missed the beginning of this series, start with the experiments described in Doping With Beet Juice and replicated in Out of the Lab Onto the Track. In Pretty in Pee-nk, I use beeturia to illustrate an important point about phytonutrients, and return to the nitric oxide story in Hearts Shouldn’t Skip a Beet.

For the asparagus lovers out there, check out my videos #1 Anticancer Vegetable and Best Cooking Method.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Using Greens to Improve Athletic Performance, and Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

11 responses to “Asparagus Pee

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  1. If you missed the beginning of this series, start with the experiments described in Doping with beet juice and replicated in yesterday’s video. In Monday’s video-of-the-day, I’ll use beeturia to illustrate an important point about phytonutrients and return to the nitric oxide story on Tuesday. Have a great weekend, and feel free to spend it watching hundreds of my other videos on more than a thousand subjects :) For the asparagus lovers out there, check out my videos #1 Anticancer Vegetable and Best Cooking Method.




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  2. Dr. Greger,

    I’m 63 now, and I’ve been a vegan for about 40 years. I recently learned that I have kidney stones; one of them is one centimeter, sitting in my right kidney (saw it inadvertently in an x-ray). (I wish I knew what to do about it. I’m scared of the doctors. Should I get them blasted and have Cat Scans, etc.) Admittedly, I eat a lot of kale along with many fruits and vegetables. Not as often, I’ll eat some steamed beets, and when I do, I have beetstoolia. And sharing further, in keeping with the humorous aspect of this episode of the series, if I eat a can of vegetarian chili ( I won’t name the popular vegetarian brand), I have chilistoolia, so much so, that the odor is the same as when I freshly open the can the night before.

    Seriously though, What to do about the stones? Is doing nothing an option?




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    1. Hi this is the first time i have replied.. dont know how this works… you said “admittedly i eat a lot of
      kale” but that makes me wonder… because the info i find on kale is that it is low oxalate… nothing like
      spinach or beets. please advise




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    2. Since you already don’t eat meat, you can try a “low oxylate diet.” Just search that and you should get some websites with lists of low, moderate, and high oxylate foods. Also, there are some foods, like lemon juice, and herbs, like gravel root, that can help to dissolve stones naturally so you may want to consult a naturopathic physician about this.




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    1. Veguyan & Dr Greger…thanks for this site – I am a nutritionfacts fan, and vegan. Yes and I have similar questions not just about beets but about other high oxalate foods and kidney function. I would be interested in a response from the Doc in relation to any results from research done in the field of oxalates & the kidneys, intestinal flora and oxalate absorption and low oxalate plant foods that can replace the higher oxalate ones in a vegan diet. It would be so great if the Doc could do a series on vegan food substitutions for things like low oxalate vegan diet and also a gluten free diet as I know a number of people who’s food sensitivities and ailments have made their food choices already limited but who would love to choose a vegan diet. In these cases would it also be wise to seek the advice of a plant based dietician?




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  3. i just read your Durian story in one of your Q&A
    and was wondering if there is anything similiar with the smell of Durian
    me and my partner were driving back home after i bought some durian. Funny enough i am only able to detect a slight smell while my partner wanted to leave the car and take the bus! :D




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