Asparagus, potato and seafood do sound delicious, but think twice before indulging in these kinds of food. A new study suggests that asparagus, potato, seafood, red meat and nuts contain compounds that can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Cambridge researchers claim that asparagine, an amino acid that is also found in dairy products and poultry, causes cancer cells to move from their original site into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.
The team of researchers showed that a low-asparagine diet can help reduce tumourous growths in cancer-affected mice. The team injected the mice suffering from breast cancer with the enzyme L-asparaginase to prevent the production of the amino acid asparagine. The enzyme was given five times a week for 19 days. They were also put on a low-asparagine diet.
After feeding the mice a diet low in asparagine, researchers found that the diet reduced the tumor's ability to spread. The results of the study were published in the journal Nature.
A fruit-and-vegetable-rich diet with asparagine-lowering drugs can provide a better treatment and prevent the disease from metastasizing or spreading to other organs at a distance from the primary site.
Professor Greg Hannon, the lead author of the study from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said that the research points out the key mechanisms that lead to the spread of breast cancer cells in the body. The team found that with reduced asparagine content, tumor cells had reduced metastases in other body parts, reported the Mail Online.
"This finding adds vital information to our understanding of how we can stop cancer spreading - the main reason patients die from their disease," Hannon said.
Cancer Research UK's chief clinician Charles Swanton said that further research is required to check whether the findings can be applied in a real-life scenario.
Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said dietary advice to patients to avoid food containing asparagine or drugs that break down this nutrient "could be added to standard treatment to help prevent metastasis."
Experts say that meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, asparagus, nut, seeds and potatoes are rich in asparagine. Asparagine has also been linked to reduced survival rates in patients suffering from leukemia.
It has not been determined how the amino acid induces tumor growth, but researchers believe that the acid somehow helps the cancerous cells leave their original site and colonize other organs.