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I suggest you read all the details including references as this may be a myth or there may be some truth in it?

Asparagus -- Who knew ?

This is from a friend

My Mom had been taking the full-stalk canned style asparagus that she pureed and she took 4 tablespoons in the morning and 4 tablespoons later in the day. She did this for over a month. She is on chemo pills for Stage 3 lung cancer in the pleural area and her cancer cell count went from 386 down to 125 as of this past week. Her oncologist said she does not need to see him for 3 months.

Several years ago, I had a man seeking asparagus for a friend who had cancer. He gave me a photocopied copy of an article, entitled, Asparagus for cancer 'printed in Cancer News Journal, December 1979. I will share it here, just as it was shared with me: I am a biochemist, and have specialized in the relation of diet to health or over 50 years. Several years ago, I learned of the discovery of Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. that asparagus might cure cancer. Since then, I have worked with him on his project We have accumulated a number of favorable case histories. Here are a few examples:

Case No. 1, A man with an almost hopeless case of Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph glands) who was completely incapacitated. Within 1 year of starting the asparagus therapy, his doctors were unable to detect any signs of cancer, and he was back on a schedule of strenuous exercise.

Case No. 2, a successful businessman 68 years old who suffered from cancer of the bladder for 16 years. After years of medical treatments, including radiation without improvement, he went on asparagus. Within 3 months, examinations revealed that his bladder tumor had disappeared and that his kidneys were normal.

Case No. 3, a man who had lung cancer. On March 5th 1971, he was put on the operating table where they found lung cancer so widely spread that it was inoperable. The surgeon sewed him up and declared his case hopeless. On April 5th he heard about the Asparagus therapy and immediately started taking it By August, x-ray pictures revealed that all signs of the cancer had > disappeared. He is back at his regular business routine.

Case No. 4, a woman who was troubled for a number of years with skin cancer. She finally developed different skin cancers which were diagnosed by the acting specialist as advanced. Within 3 months after starting on asparagus, her skin specialist said that her skin looked fine and no more skin lesions. This woman reported that the asparagus therapy also cured her kidney disease, which started in 1949. She had over 10 operations for kidney stones, and was receiving government disability payments for an inoperable, terminal, kidney condition. She attributes the cure of this kidney trouble entirely to the asparagus.

I was not surprised at this result, as `The elements of materia medica', edited in1854 by a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania , stated that asparagus was used as a popular remedy for kidney stones. He even referred to experiments, in 1739, on the power of asparagus in dissolving stones. Note the dates! We would have other case histories but the medical establishment has interfered with our obtaining some of the records. I am therefore appealing to readers to spread this good news and help us to gather a large number of case histories that will overwhelm the medical skeptics about this unbelievably simple and natural remedy.

For the treatment, asparagus should be cooked before using, and therefore canned asparagus is just as good as fresh. I have corresponded with the two leading canners of asparagus, Giant and Stokely, and I am satisfied that these brands contain no pesticides or preservatives. Place the cooked asparagus in a blender and liquefy to make a puree, and store in the refrigerator. Give the patient 4 full tablespoons twice daily, morning and evening. Patients usually show some improvement in 2-4 weeks. It can be diluted with water and used as a cold or hot drink. This suggested dosage is based on present experience, but certainly larger amounts can do no harm and may be needed in some cases. As a biochemist I am convinced of the old saying that `what cures can prevent.' Based on this theory, my wife and I have been using asparagus puree as a beverage with our meals. We take 2 tablespoons diluted in water to suit our taste with breakfast and with dinner. I take mine hot and my wife prefers hers cold. For years we have made it a practice to have blood surveys taken as part of our regular checkups. The last blood survey, taken by a medical doctor who specializes in the nutritional approach to health, showed substantial improvements in all categories over the last one, and we can attribute these improvements to nothing but the asparagus drink. As a biochemist, I have made an extensive study of all aspects of cancer, and all of the proposed cures. As a result, I am convinced that asparagus fits in better with the latest theories about cancer.

Asparagus contains a good supply of protein called histones, which are believed to be active in controlling cell growth.. For that reason, I believe asparagus can be said to contain a substance that I call cell growth normalizer. That accounts for its action on cancer and in acting as a general body tonic. In any event, regardless of theory, asparagus used as we suggest, is a harmless substance. The FDA cannot prevent you from using it and it may do you much good. It has been reported by the US National Cancer Institute, that asparagus is the highest tested food containing glutathione, which is considered one of the body's most potent anticarcinogens and antioxidants.

You may wish to send this article to everyone in your Address Book?
The most unselfish act one can ever do is paying forward all the kindness one has received, even to the most undeserved person.

This item has been bruited about the Internet since October 2006, and there is even a Spanish translation of it in circulation. While it claims to draw its information from a piece titled "Asparagus for Cancer" printed in Cancer News Journal in December 1979, we've as yet been unable to locate a copy of that article or find information about either the e-mail's unnamed biochemist narrator or the article's purported authority, Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S
. (It isn't clear what the "D.D.S." stands for — that abbreviation is typically the short form for Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Science, degrees one would not think would position their holders to perform groundbreaking work in the field of oncology.) It should go without saying that until far more is known about the 1979 "Asparagus for Cancer" article, that its purported miraculous tales of serious bouts of cancer overcome by asparagus therapy cannot be confirmed and thus should not be regarded as anything other than lore.

However, that article's provenance aside, asparagus might indeed have certain anti-cancer properties. In addition to this vegetable's many other nutritional benefits (only 25 calories per stalk, high in folic acid, plus a good source of vitamins A, B6 and C, calcium, iron, thiamin, potassium and fiber), it is high in the micronutrient glutathione, an antioxidant. Glutathione is said to defend the body against viruses, certain types of cancer, and boosts immune cells.

Antioxidants have long been touted as one of the keys to preventing cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) says of that conviction:
Considerable laboratory evidence from chemical, cell culture, and animal studies indicates that antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent the development of cancer. However, information from recent clinical trials is less clear. In recent years, large-scale, randomized clinical trials reached inconsistent conclusions.
In other words, antioxidants may or may not be the potent cancer-fighters they're widely believed to be —the medical jury is still out on that subject.

As for the notion that asparagus (or any other food) can actually help cure cancer, however, the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center noted:
According to our experts, a poor diet and obesity associated with a poor diet is a risk factor for the development of cancer. However, there is no evidence that certain foods alter the environment of an existing cancer, at the cellular level, and cause it to either die or grow.

Exactly who Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. is and what his qualifications as a cancer and nutrition expert are we do not know, for the simple reason that his name doesn't appear anywhere in print except in connection with this one online article.

The periodical in which it was allegedly published, the Cancer News Journal, no longer exists but apparently devoted itself to "alternative" cancer therapies. An article with the identical title ("Asparagus for Cancer") and similar if not identical content appeared under the byline "Karl Lutz" in the February 1974 edition of Prevention magazine.

In any case, contrary to the impression given above there are no peer-reviewed medical studies proving that eating asparagus alone "prevents" or "cures" cancer. That's not to say asparagus offers no cancer-fighting benefits whatsoever — there's a good chance it does, given that it contains vitamin D, folic acid, and the antioxidant glutathione, all thought to play some role in lowering risk factors for certain cancers. By all means, eat your asparagus!

The thing is, lots of other foods provide the same nutritional benefits and more besides, so emphasizing one particular vegetable over all the other health-promoting foods available is surely counter-productive. Generally speaking, medical experts recommend a diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables and low in fats and nitrates for optimal resistance to cancer.

At the risk of stating the obvious, it should also be noted that dietary measures ought never to be regarded as a substitute for proper medical diagnosis and treatment of any disease, especially cancer.

Asparagus and Cancer
Sunday, 31 January 2010

I recently was told by one of my phone consultees that he was making a slurry of asparagus as a treatment for his cancer. For 35 years I have been hearing about the allegedly curative properties of asparagus. There is a single scientific study from China indicated that an asparagus extract can kill some cancer cells in the test tube (Liu 2009). But the Internet story of an alleged asparagus cure both predates that, and also goes way beyond it in its claims. It has all the hallmarks of an urban myth.

The "asparagus cure" apparently originated with one Richard R. Vensal, DDS. There are thousands of references to this Dr. Vensal on the Internet, but no explanation of who he was or how he arrived at his astonishing idea. No Richard Vensal is the author of any PubMed-listed scientific articles or any books in the gigantic National Library of Medicine catalog. I do remember some articles on the topic of the asparagus cure in Prevention and other health magazines in the 1970s. But, if I remember correctly, these were unsupported by scientific studies.

The Guinea Pig Connection

Ironically, there is indeed a connection between asparagus and cancer, but it not in the manner that most people believe. The real asparagus-and-cancer story began with an observation by the research pathologist John G. Kidd (1909-1991) at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in 1953. Kidd discovered that the blood serum of healthy guinea pigs killed leukemia and a few other types of cancer in mice. A few years later Dr. John D. Broome of Texas figured out why. Guinea pigs have in their blood an enzyme called L-asparaginase, which destroys the amino acid L-asparagine. Normal cells generally manufacture their own L-asparagine, but leukemia cells are often unable to do so. They have to 'steal' their supply from normal cells.

So the idea arose of using L-asparaginase as a cancer treatment and it turned out to occasionally be dramatically effective. In 1967 Time magazine reported on the complete remission of one of the first patients to receive the drug:

"Nine-year-old Frank Hayes Jr. had been in the last stages of acute leukemia when Dr. Joseph M. Hill began giving him injections of the bacterial extract, L-asparaginase," Time reported. "Within a month, the boy's grotesquely swollen glands had shrunk, and analysis of his blood cells showed no active cancer" ("Cancer: Secret from the Guinea Pigs," Time, April 14, 1967).

Subsequent treatments were rarely as dramatic as this, but the drug was found helpful. As a result, to this day, L-asparaginase (now called Elspar) is part of the standard regimen for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) as well as some other rare tumors. The basic idea is to destroy as much of the circulating L-asparagine as possible, in order to starve the leukemic cells.

Most cancer cells, however, resemble normal cells in their ability to synthesize L-aspargine and so L-asparaginase has little activity on them. But for people with ALL and certain rare cancers eating a great many asparagus, with their abundant supply of L-asparagine, would seem to be a bad idea, especially if they are currently on a regimen containing Elspar. It would be counterproductive.

That said, I don't mean to denigrate that possibility that asparagus (like so many other plants) might some day be shown to contain helpful constituents. Last year, researchers in Nanjing, China reported the presence of a compound called Asparanin A from standard asparagus. It is "an active cytotoxic component," they said. Asparanin A arrests cell growth and also induces apoptosis (the most common form of programmed cell deaths) in human liver cancer cells. Asparanin A "shows promise as a preventive and/or therapeutic agent" against human liver cancer (Liu 2009). But this is a far cry from the claims of an asparagus cure that one finds circulating in viral fashion on the Internet these days.

--Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.


Broome, J. D. 1961. Evidence that the L-asparaginase activity of guinea pig serum is responsible for its antilymphoma effects. Nature. 191:1114.

Broome, JD. Evidence that the L-asparaginasc of guinea pig serum is responsible for its antilymphoma effects. I. Properties of the L-asparaginase of guinea pig serum in relation to those of the antilymphoma substance. J Exptl Med. 1963;118:99.

Broome, JD. Evidence that the L-asparaginase of guinea pig serum is responsible for its antilymphoma effects. II. Lymphoma 6C3HED cells cultured in a medium devoid of I~asparagine lose their susceptibility to the effects of guinea pig serum in vivo. Y. Expt. Med. 1963;118:121.

Kidd, JG. Regression of transplanted lymphomas induced in viro by means of normal guinea pig serum. I. Course of transplanted cancers of various kinds in mice and rats given guinea pig serum, horse serum, or rabbit serum. J. ExptL Med. 1953;98:565.

Kidd, JG. Regression of transplanted lymphomas induced in viva by means of normal guinea pig serum. II. Studies on the nature of the active serum constituent: histological mechanism of the regression; tests for effects of guinea pig serum on lymphoma cells in vitro: discussion. Y. Exptl. Meal. 1953;98:583.

Liu W, Huang X, Qi Q, et al. Asparanin A induces G(2)/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma HepG2 cells. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 2009;381:700-705.

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