Nav: Home

What's behind the durian fruit's notorious stench

January 18, 2017

Most people who have tried durian either love it or hate it. The fruit's yellowish flesh is sweet and custard-like, but it comes with an overpowering stench of garbage. Scientists studying the unique fruit have now analyzed a set of 20 stinky and fruity chemical ingredients and found that a mere two compounds can re-create the overall smell. Their findings appear in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Native to southeast Asia - where the fruit is considered a delicacy, but also banned from some public spaces due to its odor -- its appeal has spread to Westerners who relish trying distinct foods from around the world. Scientists interested in the fruit have identified several compounds that contribute to its smell, which has been said to reek of gym socks, garbage and rotting meat. Curious to better understand the complex scent, Martin Steinhaus and colleagues parsed the odor compounds further.

The researchers calculated the "odor activity values" of 19 of the durian's smelly compounds to see which ones were the most potent. Among the strongest were compounds that smelled of fruit, rotten onion and roasted onion. These were followed by chemicals with strong notes of cabbage and sulfur. Further experimentation found that putting just two specific compounds together -- fruity ethyl (2S)-2-methylbutanoate and oniony 1-(ethylsulfanyl)ethanethiol -- effectively resembled the fruit's entire set of odoriferous and fragrant compounds.
-end-
The abstract that accompanies this study is available here.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Smell Articles:

The human sense of smell: It's stronger than we think
The assertion that animals have a better sense of smell than humans is a 19th century myth with no scientific proof, says Rutgers University-New Brunswick neuroscientist John McGann who spent part of the last year reviewing existing research, examining data and delving into the historical writings that helped create the long-held misconception.
Can you smell through your lungs?
It was always thought that olfactory receptors' sole bodily function was to smell, and could only be found inside a nose.
Why you smell better with your nose than with your mouth
The marked difference in how much better you recognize odors you breathe in than those that are released when you chew something can be explained by the workings of the epithelium cells that line the nasal cavity.
Smell tells intruder mice how to behave
Male mice appear to be precisely wired to know when they are intruders in another male's territory, according to a study published June 23 in Cell Reports.
Witnesses can catch criminals by smell
Move over sniffer dogs, people who witnessed a crime are able to identify criminals by their smell.
Why do tomatoes smell 'grassy'?
A Japanese research group has identified the enzymes that change the grassy odor of plants into a sweeter 'green' fragrance.
The older you get, the more difficult it may become to 'smell' through your mouth
You not only pick up aromas through your nose, but also through your mouth while you chew your food.
Why bearcats smell like buttered popcorn
The bearcat. The binturong. Whatever you call this shy, shaggy-haired creature from Southeast Asia, many people who have met one notice the same thing: it smells like a movie theater snack bar.
New way to smell a rat means end for rodents
Simon Fraser University scientists have developed a new way to exterminate rats by identifying and synthetically replicating the male brown rat's sex pheromone.
New milestone for device that can 'smell' prostate cancer
A research team from the University of Liverpool has reached an important milestone towards creating a urine diagnostic test for prostate cancer that could mean that invasive diagnostic procedures that men currently undergo eventually become a thing of the past.

Related Smell Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".