Humor Urban Legends Can Asparagus Cure Cancer? Netlore Archive Share PINTEREST Email Print StephanieAlbert/Pixabay Urban Legends Rumors & Hoaxes Urban Legends in the News Classic & Historic Legends Animal Folklore Scary Stories By David Emery David Emery is an internet folklore expert, and debunker of urban legends, hoaxes, and popular misconceptions. He currently writes for Snopes.com. our editorial process David Emery Updated March 23, 2019 A viral article attributed to a biochemist claims to provide medical case histories that have been collected with the help of alleged cancer expert "Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S." The article purports to prove that eating asparagus may prevent and/or cure cancer. The text comes from a forwarded email that has been circulating since at least 2008. Status: FALSE Asparagus 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 for 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, and we have accumulated a number of favorable case histories. Here are a few examples: Case No. 1, man with an almost hopeless case of Hodgkin's disease (cancer of the lymph glands) who was completely incapacitated. Within one 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 three 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 5, 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 5 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 a skin specialist as advanced. Within three 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 ten 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 in 1854 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. 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 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 four full tablespoons twice daily, morning and evening. Patients usually show some improvement in from two to four 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 two 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 U.S. 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. Analysis and Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. Exactly who Richard R. Vensal, D.D.S. is and what his qualifications are as a cancer and nutrition expert we do not know, for the simple reason that his name doesn't appear anywhere in print apart from 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. Sources "Complementary and Alternative Medicine." American Cancer Society, 2019. Heubeck, Elizabeth. "Top Cancer-Fighting Foods." WebMD. Huber, WW. "Thiols and the chemoprevention of cancer." National Center for Biotechnology Information, W. Parzefall, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 20, 2007. "Nutrition." A.D.A.M., October 13, 2011. Snopes Staff. "Asparagus vs. Cancer." Snopes, March 18, 2009. Wardrop, Murray. "Asparagus, garlic and artichokes 'could help fight obesity and diabetes.'" The Telegraph, August 23, 2010.