(CBS Local) — New research is claiming that one particular amino acid — found in everything from beef, to poultry, to eggs, and vegetables — has been linked to the spread of cancer.
Asparagine, which takes its name from asparagus, was first isolated by scientists in 1806 studying asparagus juice. It’s also been blamed for the smell some people report coming from their urine after eating the spring vegetable. A recent study, published in the journal Nature, says reducing the levels of asparagine consumed could dramatically reduce cancer’s ability to spread throughout the body.
A study of mice suffering from breast cancer tumors found that lowering the amount of asparagine in the animals’ diets helped to curb the tumor’s growth. “It was a really huge change, [the cancers] were very difficult to find,” the study’s author, Prof. Gregory Hannon told the BBC.
The director of Britain’s Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute added that scientists believe cancer cells are stimulated by specific chemicals in humans which influence the disease’s ability to spread to other parts of a patient’s body. “We’re seeing increasing evidence that specific cancers are addicted to specific components of our diet.”
Researchers have not tested the low-asparagine diet with human patients yet so the study’s future results may change. Ironically, the drug L-asparaginase relies heavily on asparagine and is currently used to treat leukemia in people.
If the results are correct, cutting the acid out of the average person’s diet may be hard to accomplish. Asparagine-rich foods reportedly include beef, chicken, dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables also contain low levels of asparagine in them as well.