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?

I was shocked by information I read in a recent article about asparagus. I love asparagus and eat it quite frequently. Green vegetables are supposed to be good for us. They're supposed to provide helpful nutrients for our bodies, right? Apparently, this isn't necessarily so!

According to the report published on The Guardian's website, scientists have discovered that asparagus contains an amino acid called asparagine. Asparagine is naturally produced by our bodies and is a building block for proteins. It is also in many of the foods we eat, including dairy products, meats and vegetables.

Researchers have discovered, through tests conducted on mice, that asparagine seems to help cancer cells thrive and grow. The way asparagine affects cancer cells helps make existing breast cancer cells able to spread more easily. This encourages the growth of secondary tumors.

This is very discouraging news, especially to a borderline vegetarian like me. I don't want to give up my asparagus, but if I have to, I will.

There are so many things that could be potential cancer-causing elements in our world today. As a breast cancer survivor, I feel it my duty to constantly be on top of the news paying particular attention to information related to new scientific discoveries in the field of cancer research. If there is anything I can do to prevent a possible recurrence, I certainly want to do it. And, I don't want to find out, after the fact, that some food I've been eating or some product I've been using has been to my detriment.

However, there is information in the article that gives us some hope. Professor Keqiang Ye, Ph.D., a cancer researcher at Emory University in Atlanta, said that "Lowering asparagine levels, either with drugs or dietary restriction, would help prevent cancer cells from spreading. But for patients, he said that drug treatments held more promise than changes to their diets."

In this study, scientists discovered that by decreasing the amounts of asparagine in the rodents' diets, their health improved. They were also encouraged by the use of a synthetic drug called L-asparaginase which helped stop the ability of asparagine to spread cancer cells. Their findings indicated L-asparaginase helped break down asparagine in the blood stream but the research showed that more targeted drugs would be able to possibly block its production completely.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said, "This early discovery could offer a long-awaited new way to help stop breast cancer spreading - but we first need to understand the true role of this nutrient in patients. With nearly 11,500 women still dying from breast cancer each year in the UK, we urgently need to stop the disease spreading around the body, where it becomes incurable."

I'm extremely grateful for the dedicated scientists who work diligently to find ways to fight cancer. Their expertise is invaluable to those of us whose lives have been affected by cancer. It gives me great comfort to know, even when I'm about to sit down to dinner and enjoy a steaming plate of fresh asparagus covered in melted butter, with a sprinkle of salt, that somewhere out there a scientist is looking at things much differently than I do.

Until we know more about the results of this study, I'll be excluding asparagus from my diet. Although it breaks my heart to do so, I don't want to take the chance of giving my body any reason to send rogue cancer cells deeper into my bloodstream or vital organs. I have my six-month checkup next week and I want to hear my oncologist say, "Yes, you're still NED."

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