The mystery of what gives the prized but foul-smelling Asian fruit durian its characteristic odour has finally ended. Researchers at Munich Technical University discovered that a rare amino acid called ethionine is the cause of the stench. Previous studies had pointed to a chemical compound called ethanethiol, without explaining how it was being produced by the fruit. The new study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, finds that, as a durian ripens, its ethionine content increases, releasing the smell.
This finding is potentially crucial for our health. The researchers say that it is important to know how much ethionine is in a durian as this amino acid could present health risks. Previous research has suggested that consuming large amounts of ethionine might cause liver damage and cancer, although this finding is still tentative and more research needs to be done. It appears that a very large amount of durian would need to be consumed before experiencing adverse health effects.