I tend to prefer how the British news reports on medical issues, as they’re typically much less biased. But of course, there’s an exception to every rule. And in this particular case, they really put the proverbial “cart before the horse.”
Let me explain, by leading with this excerpt from a recent article I read:
“Breast cancer patients could be encouraged to cut asparagus and other foods from their diets in the future to reduce the risk of the disease spreading, scientists say.”
Now, there’s a breakthrough I’ve never seen before! I’m always happy to see signs that conventional medicine actually recognizes the key role that food plays in our health. And it would’ve been great advice, if it were true…
Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about the report. Because based on the evidence it cites, I didn’t walk away with the same conclusion.
Some quick background: An international research team from Britain, Canada, and the U.S. are speculating that certain dietary changes could benefit breast cancer patients — specifically, the restriction of a compound called asparagine. If the name didn’t tip you off already, asparagine is abundant in asparagus. (Not to mention a long list of other foods — but I’ll come back to that.)
Why are they proposing this? Because when they reduced asparagine in mice with breast tumors, the number of metastases — that is, secondary tumors in different locations in the body — dropped significantly.
According to the team’s lead scientist: “This is a very promising lead and one of the very few instances where there is a scientific rationale for a dietary modification influencing cancer.”
I’m sorry, but has this man been living under a rock? “One of the very few instances?!”
I have volumes of research on nutrition and health I’d be happy to lend him — particularly on the lethal connection between sugar and cancer — if he ever comes out of the lab and starts interacting with affected humans and not just small rodents.
But since we’re on the topic of asparagine, let’s talk about it.
Asparagine is an amino acid, which you may recognize as a building block for protein. It occurs naturally in the body — and in asparagus, as I already mentioned. But you’ll also find high levels in a lot of meats, veggies, and dairy products — including potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy, dairy, beef, poultry, eggs, and fish.
Asparagine plays a pretty significant role in the body. It helps in maintaining the central nervous system, supporting the liver, and supplying energy. Given its abundance in just about every food imaginable, deficiency is rare. But, in theory, asparagine restriction could lead to cognitive impairment, fatigue, low immunity, and infection.
Now back to the news report. And may I remind you that we’re talking about cancer patients here…
Since asparagine appears to facilitate cancer cells’ transformation into a form more easily spread to other parts of the body, researchers are suggesting putting patients on low-asparagine diets while they undergo conventional treatments, such as chemo.
What the researchers failed to acknowledge is that asparagine could very well play other vital roles in the body—so, interfering with this process could potentially create more, equally serious problems.
Not that we would know at this point, because the only research we have thus far has been with mice!
Nevertheless, these scientists are all-in for jumping the gun with their insistence that low-asparagine diets could work to block the spread of breast cancer. And they claim that their results from a cancer drug called L-asparaginase were even more effective.
Well, wouldn’t you know? They found a drug that works better than simple dietary changes! How convenient. I’ll let you guess what happens next…
These researchers are now calling for all breast cancer patients to restrict asparagine during chemotherapy. But seeing how that would require eliminating a long list of perfectly nutritious foods, they propose — wait for it — a drug treatment to block asparagine as the preferred alternative.
I have one word: SHAME.