Urine smells like popcorn: Causes, symptoms, and when to see a doctor

The common causes of a popcorn smell include diabetes, pregnancy, and a diet high in protein.

This article will discuss some of the reasons a person’s urine may smell like popcorn and explain when to see a doctor about changes in urine odor.

Causes and symptoms

People may worry if their urine smells like popcorn, but this is not uncommon. Most cases are temporary, but if the smell persists, it is worth seeing a doctor to determine the underlying cause.

Urine consists mainly of water. When it looks or smells different than usual, it is because of waste products that come from the body. This means that the look and smell of urine can tell a lot about a person’s health.

Common reasons for urine to smell like popcorn include:

During pregnancy, urine may change for a few reasons, including:

  • Altered sense of smell. Because a person’s sense of smell changes slightly during pregnancy, everyday scents may smell different than usual.
  • Hormonal changes. In the very early stages of pregnancy, increased levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) circulate in the blood, which can cause urine to smell different or more strongly.
  • Gestational diabetes. According to Diabetes.co.uk, around 1 in 20 pregnant women develop a form of temporary diabetes known as gestational diabetes. Ketoacidosis is a serious but rare complication in women with gestational diabetes.


When someone is dehydrated, they excrete less water in the urine, meaning their urine is more concentrated, darker in color, and smells much stronger than usual. If the waste products in urine have a popcorn smell, the urine may also smell like popcorn since it is more concentrated.

Aside from strong-smelling urine, additional symptoms of dehydration include:

  • exhaustion
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • reduced urination
  • a headache
  • weakness

When to see a doctor

People usually do not need to worry if their urine smells a bit different than usual for a day or two.

However, if they notice that their urine smells sweet like popcorn for several days, they should see a doctor to determine the underlying cause.

In particular, people with diabetes and pregnant women should talk with a doctor about any changes in the smell of their urine, especially if it is strong and sweet smelling.


Popcorn-scented urine typically occurs as a result of diet or dehydration and is no cause for concern.

However, if the smell lasts longer than a few days with diet or fluid intake unlikely to be the cause, it is best to visit a doctor. Similarly, pregnant woman and people with diabetes or other symptoms of diabetes should speak to a doctor if they notice the smell. In these circumstances, popcorn-scented urine may be a sign of a serious medical issue.

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