What are some ways that foods diagnose health issues in non-obvious ways?
November 6, 2011 6:44 PM   Subscribe

Apparently, 10-14% of the population get red/pink urine after eating beets and this effect is an indicator for potential iron metabolism issues. What are some other ways in which foods can diagnose health issues in non-obvious ways?
posted by unmodern to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Eat a shit ton of asparagus and see if you pee smells of asparagus.

Asparaginase is an enzyme that only some people have that converts excess asparagine, an amino acid that is especially rich in the proteins found in asparagus, into aspartic acid, which can be used in the synthesis of other amino acids. Not having the gene for this enzyme is not a big deal at all, but its presence or absence has been known to crudely establish paternity to biochemically aware folks.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:50 PM on November 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

I also made a post a while ago about a plan to use recombinant bacteria to detect and display disease states of the human body in your toilet.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:52 PM on November 6, 2011

Consuming large quantities of garlic can not only drive your friends away, but also help you detect some varieties of helminthic parasites by showing you their corpses in your poop. If you ever have worms there are effective treatments your doctor can prescribe.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:00 PM on November 6, 2011

Alcohol flush reaction.
posted by kimota at 7:07 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The urge to chew ice can indicate anemia.
posted by smoke at 7:23 PM on November 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Drinking a lot of water and urinating excessively indicates diabetes.
posted by glaucon at 7:42 PM on November 6, 2011

Not directly food-related, but the urine of diabetic people is known to attract ants due to its higher sugar content. This was in fact one of the ways that diabetes was tested for before the advent of modern medicine.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:07 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was in college, I was in a gaming group. Every time I drank a soda, even a caffeinated one, I'd fall asleep some 45 minutes later. It felt like a drugged sleep, too. I'd wake up after sleeping for 30 minutes, all groggy and slightly disoriented.

I visited the Student Health Center, and they took my blood sugar reading. Then, they sent me to the hospital for a fasting blood glucose test, with a scientifically designed Coke for me to drink. It turned out that I had actual, genuine Hypoglycemia. This was some 25 years ago, but the theory was that it was being caused by me being underweight. Gaining weight and dropping soda made it a lot easier to control.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:05 PM on November 6, 2011

Arguably food cravings and nutrient deficiencies, but I haven't seen a good scientific cite for that.

Awesome link, by the way. A few years back I learned I liked beets. Then I spent a winter eating them (cooincidentally or not) during my more, uh, iron-deficient time of the month, and not at other times. Three months in, I was convinced I was losing copious amounts of blood via my intestines due to horribly advanced endometriosis. Two months after that, waiting for a gastro appointment, I made the beet pigment connection. Thanks, Dr. Wikipedia!
posted by deludingmyself at 11:47 PM on November 6, 2011

Even though I've always been anemic, I thought colorful urine was a side effect everyone got when they ate beets. Now I know better...huh.

Anyway, one of the ways they figured out I have Celiac's disease was I got dermatitis herpetiformis whenever I ate gluten (plus some other side effects, but the rash all over my scalp was a big symptom).
posted by kinetic at 2:37 AM on November 7, 2011

Hm, that lettuce craving article was interesting. The only bona fide craving I ever got during my pregnancies was, one afternoon, an absolutely overwhelming need to eat lettuce, lots of it, and immediately... Always wondered which nutrient set that off...

Pursuant to the question, though-- I have heard that something in the breath of diabetics ( acetone? Ketones? That rings a bell, but this is old hearsay...) will diminish the head of foam on top of a beer. If you're drinking with your buddies and one of you seems to have particularly nonfrothy beer, maybe go get checked out...
posted by Sublimity at 8:09 AM on November 7, 2011

Maple Syrup Urine Disease, although I guess if that's what the disease is called, the symptom doesn't count as non-obvious.
posted by phrits at 1:22 PM on November 7, 2011

Wow. I have beeturia and I never knew that. I also have untreated anemia. Guess I will go back to taking my iron pills.
posted by govtdrone at 5:21 PM on November 7, 2011

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