Could cutting asparagus from your diet stop the spread of cancer?
Future cancer treatments may come with a specific dietary recommendation — eat less asparagus, potatoes and seafood.
All are among foods with high levels of asparagine, an amino acid researchers suggest is associated with spreading cancer.
A study of lab mice found lowering levels of asparagine "dramatically" reduced the spread of triple-negative breast cancer. The researchers, who published their work Wednesday in the journal Nature, used a number of methods to reduce asparagine levels in the mice, including changes to their diets.
Cancer spread more when the mice were given asparagine-rich foods, which include dairy, beef, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and whole grains, among others. Fruits and vegetables contain low levels of asparagine.
Cedars-Sinai Hospital's Simon Knott, an author on the study, said the research adds to mounting evidence a person's diet "can influence the course of the disease." He said should the same finding be made in humans, curbing asparagine intake could assist with cancer treatment, and not just in breast cancer.
Researchers have laid out a two-pronged approach moving forward: Discover if a low-asparagine diet reduces asparagine levels in healthy patients, then test the method in cancer patients.
"The study results are extremely suggestive that changes in diet might impact both how an individual responds to primary therapy and their chances of lethal disease spreading later in life," said study senior author Gregory J. Hannon, director of Britain's Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge.