Science Connects A Compound In Asparagus With The Spread Of Breast Cancer


Food can serve as some of the best preventative medicine out there. In fact, a balanced and varied plant-based diet has been proven to help people avoid the majority of leading illnesses (and causes of death) afflicting the general population. But what happens when some of those plants end up exacerbating the growth of disease? Our world of health flips upside down, that’s what.

According to a new multi-center study published in the journal Nature, an amino acid called asparagine could actually encourage the growth of existing breast cancer cells in an affected person, leading to the spread of the disease to other parts of the body. Asparagine is commonly found in a slew of healthy foods, such as dairy, whey, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, asparagus, potatoes, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.

For the study, researchers at more than a dozen institutions experimented with limiting the amount of asparagine consumed by laboratory mice with triple-negative breast cancer — one of the fastest growing and spreading cancers out there. The deficit they created dramatically decreased the ability of the cancerous cells to travel to distant areas of the body.


“Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests diet can influence the course of the disease,” study co-author Simon Knott, Ph.D., said in a statement. Should these results be effectively duplicated in human study participants, we could see some major changes occur in the standard course of cancer treatments.

However, considering just how many foods (that are otherwise nutritious) contain asparagine, scientists question whether a restricted diet approach would truly be that effective in mitigating the cancer-growing effects of this particular amino acid. There is also a treatment with the chemotherapy drug L-asparaginase available, so researchers will be looking further into its uses and effects in regards to breast cancer, as well as other forms of metastatic cancer.

But for now, understand that none of these foods cause breast cancer. They present a risk for people who already have breast cancer. And while that’s certainly not good news, it’s a very important distinction to make for both nutritional health and disease control down the line.