New evidence proves that food consumption is linked to cancer growth, as it was discovered that limiting the intake of a certain food compound stopped the spread of breast cancer.
The study is another example of the suggested link between diet and cancer, a concept that, if proven, may save countless lives from the dreaded disease.
A new study, conducted at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and was published in the Nature journal, provided proof that the food people eat may alter the growth rate and spread of cancer.
The research involved mice that were infected with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Usually, it will only take a couple of weeks for the mice to die after the tumor spreads to other organs. However, when the mice were given a diet that were low on asparagine, or drugs to block the ingestion of the compound, the breast cancer tumor stopped spreading.
“It was a really huge change, [the cancers]were very difficult to find,” said Greg Hannon, the lead scientist for the study and the director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute.
Asparagine is an amino acid naturally made by the human body to serve as building blocks for proteins. The compound, however, is also found in asparagus, from where it gets its name, and in certain meats, dairy products, and vegetables. Other specific examples of food with high levels of asparagine include eggs, potatoes, nuts, and soy, while fruits and vegetables have low levels of the amino acid.
The researchers discovered that asparagine apparently helps breast cancer cells to transform into a state that can easily spread to the bloodstream and then to other organs. The spread of the cancer cells, often to the brain, lungs, and bones, is the chief reason of death for breast cancer patients.
If the findings of the study will also prove true to humans, doctors may place breast cancer patients on a low-asparagine diet. However, due to the prevalence of asparagine in many types of food, drugs that block the intake of the amino acid, named L-asparagine, may prove to be easier to administer.
Food has been linked to cancer in the past, with hot tea said to increase the risk among cigarette smokers and alcohol drinkers for esophageal cancer, and a high-fat diet said to worsen prostate cancer.
There is still much research to be done on the matter, for sure. However, doctors and patients are hoping that the proposed connection between food intake and cancer growth may one day be understood well enough to create a viable treatment or prevention plan for all forms of the disease.