DEAR DR. GOTT: I recently read an article on the Internet regarding the healing powers of asparagus. It is supposed to really be a super cancer-killer. Have you heard anything about this, or is it more Internet hype? It seems to me that if it is all it is said to be, the AMA or FDA would be endorsing it, wouldn’t they?
DEAR READER: Asparagus contains a protein known as histone, believed to be active in controlling cell growth. This may be the connection to which you refer. It is high in folate and vitamins K and C, and may provide the digestive tract with unique health benefits. It is purported to fight depression, lower cholesterol, contain antifungal and antiviral qualities, prevent kidney stones and bladder and urinary tract infections, reduce high blood pressure, treat toothaches, increase the success rate of chemotherapy, and contain anti-cancer agents – particularly in relation to the lungs.
In one circulating email, the Cancer News Journal was said to have printed an article in December 1979; however, to date, the article and its biochemist author have not been found. The email goes on to say the article discussed the miraculous tales of serious bouts of cancer being overcome by asparagus therapy. That was enough to catch readers’ attention: http://www.snopes.com/ medical/disease/asparagus.asp.
Asparagus is high in glutathione, an antioxidant purported to defend the body against viruses, certain forms of cancer and to boost immune cells. The National Cancer Institute 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.”
Johns Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center has stated that poor diet and obesity associated with that poor diet are risk factors 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.”
This leads me to believe the jury is out on this decision and much more research is vital before conclusions can be reached. For almost every health concern, eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, controlling one’s consumption of products that contain alcohol and quitting smoking are the foundation for maintaining a healthy body.
Speak with an oncologist or a naturopath regarding this alternative therapy. From my perspective, asparagus is a healthful food, and it can do no harm to consume it. Should it cure cancer, you will know you aren’t a victim of Internet hype but are on the cutting edge of history in the making.
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DEAR DR. GOTT: My wife is a registered nurse and insists that any frozen food be defrosted in the refrigerator. She says that defrosting food on the counter develops bacteria. I can understand that, but if you are going to cook the food, either on the stovetop or in the oven, wouldn’t that kill the bacteria if you defrosted it on the countertop?
DEAR READER: Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods should not be defrosted on a kitchen counter. Instead, use a microwave oven, cold running water or – the refrigerator! Your wife is correct.
Having said that, however, meats that are cooked to the proper internal temperature will kill most bacteria. For steaks, roasts and lamb, that temperature is 145 degrees; for pork, veal and ground beef, it’s 160 degrees; for ground poultry, 165 degrees; and for whole poultry, 180 degrees. Still, it is better to be safe and properly defrost AND thoroughly cook foods before consumption.