Asparagus, Sugar and Other Topics in the News

Does asparagus cure cancer? It's one of the persistent rumors that we get asked. Here are the science-based answers to common beliefs about cancer causes and cures.

The Claim: Taking a daily dose of pureed asparagus will cure cancer.

This story, which has spread on the Internet and via email, offers a few testimonials and is supposedly based on a "doctor’s" 1979 journal article.

The Research: No such article has been published in peer-reviewed research journals and our Internet searches uncovered no information on the origin of the article or the doctor.

However, if you enjoy asparagus, it can be a valuable part of a diet that reduces cancer risk. Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, it contains vitamin C and beta-carotene, and foods high in these nutrients may offer additional cancer protection.

What to do: The false hope of these "cancer cure" or "miracle food" claims may prevent some from pursuing more effective treatments. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian about these claims before pursuing them. As with most whole foods, however, you can enjoy asparagus roasted, grilled or lightly steamed as one part of a cancer-protective diet.

The Claim: Sugar feeds cancer.

Oncology dietitians report this as one of the most common claims they hear.

The Research: All cells (including cancer cells) in our body use sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream for fuel. But that blood sugar comes from all carbohydrate foods, including healthful vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy sources; some glucose is even produced within our bodies from protein.

While avoiding sugar completely will not slow cancer growth, eating a lot of high sugar foods may mean excess calories in your diet. That, in turn, can lead to weight gain and excess body fat. And obesity increases the risk of 11 common cancers, including colorectal, post-menopausal breast and ovarian.

What to do: Focus on eating an overall healthy diet that can help you get the nutrients you need and help with weight management. Base your diets in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and other plant foods with moderate amounts of animal protein. Limit foods with a lot of added sugar.