Q: I think I heard the most ridiculous idea ever today. A lady said she read a story about a scientist who tested this: the cure for cancer is to take asparagus, fresh or canned, and puree it. Then take two tablespoons morning and night.
How can people be so naïve? Don’t they think if this were true it would have cured cancer a long time ago?
This lady doesn’t have cancer but has decided to start doing this to keep from getting it.
A: There are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of medical rumors that circulate, primarily around the internet. Heating food in plastic will cause cancer; reusing plastic water bottles will cause cancer; this or that drink will prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer; pureed asparagus will cure cancer; drinking iced water with meals will cause fats to solidify in the stomach and cause cancer; and they go on and on.
Often these rumors have a small kernel of truth, such as the asparagus/cancer link. Asparagus is high in vitamins and minerals and may even have some anti-cancer properties; however, simply pureeing the vegetable and eating a small amount daily will neither prevent nor cure cancer. That said, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed, fatty, salty foods can cause better overall health and reduce the risk of developing not only certain cancers, but also diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and more. The reason? The body is getting what it needs to function at an optimal level, decreasing the chances that cells will malfunction.
As for why so many people fall prey to these rumors is likely due to lack of medical knowledge and failure to properly and thoroughly research the validity of the statements. Not everything on the internet (or written in books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) is real but many people fail to recognize this. This is especially true when the rumor mentions a specific doctor, person or reputable institution.
I even talked about similar stories in previous columns here, here and here. One regarding water bottles left in cars that was linked with the reputable source of Johns Hopkins. The rumor became so pervasive that the university and medical school conducted their own study disproving the rumor and put it on their website here.
My advice to anyone who hears or reads about a medical cure or potential hazard is to thoroughly research the topic before passing it on or taking the advice. Snopes.com is an excellent source for validating or debunking internet rumors, both medical and non-medical. Further, your personal physician is always a great source for learning the truth regarding a medical condition or treatment. And, finally, don’t believe something just because your cousin’s mother’s best friend’s daughter swears by it.