Asparagus, urinary odor, and 1,2-dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid

Perspect Biol Med. Summer 2013;56(3):341-51. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2013.0031.


The derivatives of 1,2-dithiolane are scattered widely throughout the natural world where they are generally exploited for their biocidal properties. One of these, known as asparagusic acid (1,2-dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid), is present in the frequently consumed vegetable, asparagus, and though apparently innocuous toxicologically, it may be responsible for the distinctive urine odor produced after consuming this food. This review collects together, for the first time, historical observations associating asparagus ingestion with this unique odor-producing phenomenon and collates data implicating a 1,2-dithiolane structure as the major chemical precursor responsible.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asparagus Plant / chemistry*
  • Botany / history*
  • Diet
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Thiophenes / analysis*
  • Thiophenes / urine
  • Urine / chemistry*


  • Thiophenes
  • 1,2-dithiolane-4-carboxylic acid