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Study Finds Some Healthy Foods Could Help Cancer Spread

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Fish, whole grains, asparagus -- all are touted as healthy foods. But new research finds a specific amino acid found in each of the nutrient-rich noshes, called asparagine, could help spread breast cancer.

"I think what we're seeing is really the beginning of a realization that tumors are fueled by different dietary components," said Greg Hannon, director of cancer research at the U.K. Cambridge Institute, the senior author of the study just published in Nature.

Hannon told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock the line of research began in New York, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory about 4½ years ago. Using mice, the study found a diet low in asparagine reduced cancer spread.

"The message really is we might, under very controlled conditions, be able to modify a patient's diet, for example, in a well-controlled clinical setting, so that we could optimize their response, for example, to the therapy that they would normally be given anyways," Hannon said.

Green asparagus lies on display at a Spanish producer's stand at the Fruit Logistica agricultural trade fair on Feb. 8, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Dr. Charles Shapiro, an expert on breast cancer research at Mount Sinai Hospital, said at this point the research is far removed from practical application.

"Don't stop eating asparagus," he said.

What is proven to improve health is to step up physical activity and eat a well-balanced, sensible diet.

"Less red meat, more greens," Shapiro said. "Cook your food, instead of buying processed food."

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