Asparagus Pee Is Real, But Only Some Of Us Can Smell It

Everyone’s pee smells like asparagus after they digest it. Deny this all you like, but those green stalks contain something called asparagusic acid, among a couple other compounds, that gives urine that unique odor.

As your body digests food, it breaks down different compounds through the enzymatic process. In the case of asparagus, its compounds are volatile and released as a vapor through the urine. That’s the aroma you smell when the compound exits your body, according to HuffPost’s conversation with Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist at Princeton Medical Group and author of What’s Your Baby’s Poo Telling You?.

If you insist you’ve never before smelled what’s been informally dubbed “asparagus pee,” it’s because you lack the ability to detect the odor. The smell is there, you just can’t smell it. “The digestive process is pretty constant from person to person, but a person’s ability to detect these odors varies,” Sheth says. This is because our perception of smell — just like our perception of color — is completely personal. “We all have our own idiosyncratic smell perception of the world,” Dr. Ian Davison, a biology professor at Boston University, explains to HuffPost. “Our experience of different smells is completely unique.” The inability to smell this asparagus pee is an instance of specific anosmia, where a specific scent cannot be detected by a specific nose.

Illustration by Eva Hill

There are about 400 different genes for the different receptors in every nose. Some people have a mutation in one of these genes that affects the ability of that receptor to respond to the chemical that makes pee smell funny. The defect seems a bit arbitrary — Sheth chalks it up to “an odd quirk of human evolution;” up to 50 percent of people can detect the smell. Davison guesses the mutation happened over time. He says that for many animals, sense of smell is key for survival. Humans, on the other hand, rely so strongly on their visual sense that smell devolved, and these random errors — like not being able to smell asparagus pee — started creeping through.

Asparagus pee is not the only scent for which people experience specific anosmia. Every two or three people out of 100 have a tough time detecting vanillin, the main compound found in vanilla. Some are particularly sensitive (or insensitive) to androstenone, a component of sweat. “It flips between weak and pleasant to powerful and quite nasty,” Davison says.

We can’t control much of this. But if your asparagus pee is really getting to you, Sheth suggests cutting off the tips of the vegetable before consuming it. “That’s where the bulk of the compounds are found.” He, personally, sees no reason to take this step, as he finds the tips to be most delicious and worth the consequences.

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from Green – The Huffington Post

Man Faces Environmental Charges For Trying To Move River In Washington State

SEATTLE, Oct 30 (Reuters) – A Washington state man accused of using an excavator and a bulldozer to try to alter the Tahuya River was charged on Thursday with environmental violations, the state’s top attorney said.

William Cayo Sr. was charged in Mason County District Court with violating water pollution and shoreline management laws as well as conducting unpermitted hydraulic activities in February 2013, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office said in a statement.

Federal biologists concluded that about 5,747 square meters of river bed were moved to fill the active channel or otherwise alter the streambed conditions in the river, about 50 miles west of Seattle, Ferguson said.

Under Washington state law, a property owner can work with a county and other agencies to develop “responsible, professional and effective” hydraulic or shoreline projects that protect both private property and natural resources.

“Unpermitted and improperly designed work in a riverbed or on a shoreline, however, can damage neighboring properties, pollute the river, and kill fish,” the statement said. (Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

from Green – The Huffington Post

Federal Officials Identify Casey Nocket As ‘Major Suspect’ In National Parks Graffiti Cases

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Federal officials have publicly identified a woman suspected of graffiti vandalism in at least eight national parks across the West, including Yosemite and Death Valley in California, and credit social media for helping pinpoint the alleged culprit.

Casey Nocket of New York state has not been arrested or charged but was confirmed on Thursday as “the major suspect” in an investigation of one of the most widespread acts of serial vandalism documented in the National Park System.

The case was brought to light in a series of photos obtained and posted by the Internet blog Modern Hiker and furnished to the National Park Service picturing numerous graffiti drawings, all signed “Creepytings” and dated 2014.

One shows a woman the blog identified as Nocket putting the finishing touches on an acrylic drawing of a cigarette-smoking figure scrawled on a canyon wall at Utah’s Canyonlands National Park in June.

Others show drawings of a woman with blue hair on a ledge overlooking Oregon’s Crater Lake and a bald man with a snake protruding from his mouth on a trailside rock in California’s Yosemite National Park.

The Park Service said initially it was investigating such vandalism in at least 10 Western national parks.

But agency spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said on Thursday that Nocket had been tied as a suspect to graffiti in eight parks – Yosemite, Death Valley and Joshua Tree in California; Crater Lake in Oregon; Zion and Canyonlands in Utah; and Rocky Mountain National Park and Colorado National Monument in Colorado.

Although instant gratification afforded by social media exposure was cited in a New York Times report last year for a rise in graffiti defacings on public lands, Picavet said social media in this case played a key role in the investigation.

The Modern Hiker said its photos were gathered earlier this month by screen shots taken of the suspect’s Instagram and Tumblr accounts, which have since been set to “Private.”

Park Service investigators also received numerous photos and other information from members of the public outraged over the defacings, Picavet said.

Vandalism is a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, although prosecutors could decide to bring more serious charges.

“This is an open investigation,” Picavet said.

Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said vandalism occurred there occasionally but was “not common.” She added: “As far as a widespread case like this, it’s the first one I’m aware of.” (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney)

from Green – The Huffington Post

Himalayan Viagra fuels caterpillar fungus gold rush

Overwhelmed by speculators trying to cash-in on a prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to do at the local level what world leaders often fail to do on a global scale — implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of a precious natural resource, suggests new research.

from Top Environment News — ScienceDaily

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