Asparagus & Cancer Cell Growth


I love asparagus & pig out on it when it is in season; to the extent that my husband is now growing it for me ūüôā This season will be the first time we can harvest it. Because of this, the headlines about how asparagus is a food that breast cancer patients should avoid caught my eye. I wondered why asparagus was being singled out now. I found that the reason for these headlines was due to a new study by the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute¬†that¬†had been published in the journal Nature this past week. What do we do with studies & headlines like this? We take a closer look & see if they apply to us as a unique individual.

This is the first article that I read.¬†Cure:¬†Asparagus Could Kill Me?, “A recent study points to a concerning ingredient in one of our most common foods. Could this potentially help the spread of cancer?”, BY¬†BONNIE ANNIS, FEBRUARY 09, 2018¬†Should you eliminate asparagus from your diet? Let’s take a closer look at the study & what it means.

Here is the actual study as published in Nature: Asparagine bioavailability governs metastasis in a model of breast cancer The information that I gleaned from this study is as follows.

  • The study has only been done on mice with a strain of an¬†aggressive¬†breast cancer.
  • No human studies/clinical trials have been done yet.
  • Not all circulating cancer cells were able to begin new tumors at secondary sites.
  • Those cells that did metastasize were strongly influenced by the presence of the amino acid asparagine.
  • Limiting asparagine by dietary restrictions or by the drug¬†L-asparaginase, which blocks the cells use of asparagine, limited the cells ability to metastasize.¬†

The most important part of this study that you need to remember is that they did not take away all asperigine. It was a low-aspargine diet that was used. This is important to note because it would be difficult to totally eliminate this amino-acid & it would cause other problems if you were able to. Asperigine is important in the protection of the liver & it is important for the health of your nerves. Concise information regarding the role of asparagine in your body from the Asparagine 

Most fruits & vegetables are low in asparagine. What are the food sources with high asparagine content, besides asparagus?

  • Animal:¬†dairy,¬†whey,¬†beef,¬†poultry,¬†eggs,¬†fish, & seafood
  • Plants:¬†asparagus,¬†potatoes,¬†legumes,¬†nuts,¬†seeds,¬†soy,¬†whole grains

As we have seen in other restrictive diets, it is not a good idea to eliminate a food group. Because asparagine is in many foods, restricting our diets to decrease it may be difficult. The more promising outcome of a clinical trial may be the use of the asparagine blocker, l-asparaginase. 

Food may influence cancer spread,¬†By James GallagherHealth and science correspondent, BBC News,¬†7 February 2018¬†¬†This article is very good & explains the study in layman’s¬†language & what it’s effects on diet may be.¬†

As we have seen in previous studies done with mice, it does not always have the same outcome when human clinical trials are done. But then again there are studies that do have the same outcome. The researchers are going to start human clinical trials with healthy individuals first. They will put these individuals on a low-asparagine diet to see if this will reduce the levels of asparagine in their bodies. If it does then the next step would be to use cancer patients in a clinical trial. 

This isn’t the first study that has shown that certain amino-acids may be influencing cancer cells in specific types of cancer. Serine & glycine were the subjects last year.¬†

GEN: Diet Therapy Could Slow Cancer by Cutting Certain 
Amino Acids. April 20, 2017 This study was also done in the UK using mice. The results were that by restricting dietary serine & glycine it can reduce tumor growth in intestinal cancer & lymphomas. It also showed that it may not be effective in other cancers. Clinical trials in humans are needed. The scientists noted that doing the clinical trials would not only show them if it works the same in humans, which types of cancers are affected, but also how restricted the diet needs to be and also remain safe. 

From the Serine This explains the function & importance of serine & glycine in the body.  Deficiency of serine in the diet can lead to depression, irritability, insomnia, anxiety and confusion; thus the concern regarding a safe diet. 

This article caught my eye yesterday in MedicalNewsToday: How Blueberries help to kill cancer cells, Wednesday 3 January 2018, By Fact checked by Jasmin Collier  The lead researcher, Dr. Yujiang Fang & his co-researchers are with the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  

This study was done with human cervical cancer cells in a petri dish. The researchers used a blueberry extract with radiation on some cells & compared the results with only radiation on other cells. The results showed that the extract killed 25% of the cells & the radiation alone killed 20%. Next will be clinical trials.

These findings are great because we already know that blueberries are high in anti-oxidants, are anti-inflammatory, have a high fiber content for heart health, are low in calories & are readily available. The perfect fruit!

You can read the study & it’s¬†results¬†in¬†Pathology and Oncology Research.

In one of my favorite books, The China Study,¬†on page #226,¬†co-author,¬†T. Colin¬†Campbell PhD, writes about¬†Eating¬†Right: Eight Principles; “Principle #1: Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In his book, he explains how each separate¬†nutrient works synergistically with other nutrients causing a cascade effect throughout the body. Together they stimulate glands & the production of important¬†hormones & body functions. Where they go in the body & how much is needed in each area or even each individual cell is all very carefully controlled.¬†

What I am saying is that each nutrient alone may influence the growth of cancer cells but it cannot be totally omitted because of its function with other nutrients to keep us healthy. Each nutrient sends out thousands of bits of information. We need them all. Balance!

Visit T. Colin Campbell: Center for Nutrition Studies for more information. Make sure you check out the recipes & the book section. I bought The PlantPure Nation Cookbook By Kim Campbell. Love the recipes. 

I hope that this information will help you decide whether or not you are going to give up asparagus ūüôā As noted by one of the researchers, these types of studies do not mean that they would work safely with a “home-made” diet plan. Again it is all about moderation & balance.

Until next week…Mary ūüôā