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August 14, 2009

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If, upon further study, asparagus extract does indeed increase enzymatic activity in the liver and breaks down alcohol more efficiently, then if would seem that this may help fight liver cancer too.

I’m astounded the by 70% reduction in free radical production and liver enzyme results in the study. There is definitely a lot of promise in the use of asparagus to reduce liver cell toxicity. Does that mean everyone can drink a little more with less worries? I hope that these developments don’t lead to people popping the little asparagus pill after a night of heavy binging.

Asparagus is so good for you. It not only has antioxidant properties, but it also has antiprotozoal and antitumor effects. What a great vegetable to add to your diet!

Great news for asparagus eaters. I only wonder when the news gets around if the farmers and grocery stores start selling asparagus leaves along with dandelion and beet leaves.

I'd like to see more investigation done with asparagus and alcohol use. I think a great study would be to incorporated asparagus into the diet regiment of patients residing in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Patients battling alcoholism present with a high incidence of liver disease. I’d be interested to see the improvements asparagus may offer this group of patients.

As with many foods/herbs, it is difficult to pinpoint a single mechanism of action in a whole product. A whole food, such as asparagus, has many nutrients and parts working together to provide nourishment as well as medicinal effects.

Another example of this is milk thistle, a whole product with grade B evidence in Natural Standard for cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. The mechanism of action is reported as having numerous proposed pathways for each of six major flavonolignans identified in the compound. This complexity emphasizes the need for a diet rich in whole foods, especially vegetables, to improve overall health and function.

As with many foods/herbs, it is difficult to pinpoint a single mechanism of action in a whole product. A whole food, such as asparagus, has many nutrients and parts working together to provide nourishment as well as medicinal effects. Another example of this is milk thistle, a whole product with grade B evidence in Natural Standard for cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis. The mechanism of action is reported as having numerous proposed pathways for each of six major flavonolignans identified in the compound. This complexity emphasizes the need for a diet rich in whole foods, especially vegetables, to improve overall health and function.

Nice informative post and comments. Asparagus may increase the function of enzymes in the liver and boost the metabolism of alcohol. Asparagus was tested to see if they could reduce liver toxicity in human liver cells exposed to hydrogen peroxide.

Although I agree with GB that drug companies are going to try to make a drug using asparagus extract, it is also likely that you might begin to see asparagus’ leaves at your local farmer’s market soon. But before that can happen, more conclusive studies are need that show asparagus’ effects on liver function.

Great news for asparagus eaters. I only wonder: when the news gets around, will the farmers and grocery stores start selling asparagus leaves along with dandelion and beet leaves?

I'd like to see more investigation done with asparagus and alcohol. I think a great study would be to incorporated asparagus into the diets of patients residing in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Patients battling alcoholism present with a high incidence of liver disease. I’d be interested to see the improvements asparagus may offer this group of patients.

Asparagus looks like a very promising plant for liver function. Extract provides 70% protection against ROS? This is amazing news. I would like to know how they got the extract - raw form, etc.? Also, would it be readily available with these benefits in a pill or capsule form? These would be good things to know.

Additionally, research like this would be so beneficial for people who may have family histories of liver disease, cancer,etc. Additionally, it's probably a good idea for MDs to know more about these natural products so that they can direct their patients with a particular family risk (i.e. liver disorders/disease/cancer/even alcoholics) to start taking these types of supplements. Once again, this just shows the importance of researching what nature has provided us!

The liver is able to regenerate or repair up to two-thirds of injured tissue, including hepatocytes, biliary epithelial cells and endothelial cells. Healthy cells take over the function of damaged cells, either indefinitely or until the damage is repaired. Liver damage can be the result of drugs (such as acetaminophen), poisons (such as the death cap mushroom) or drinking too much alcohol for a long period of time. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.25 million Americans have chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation).

In its wild form in Ancient Greece and Rome, asparagus was used as a diuretic (increasing urine flow) to flush out the kidneys and prevent the formation of kidney stones.

Asparagus is likely safe when consumed as a food. The primary adverse effects for asparagus are dermatological (skin reactions) and pulmonary (lung) allergic reactions. Asparagus and liver cell toxicity has not been established, as the Natural Standard monographs on both asparagus and liver toxicity indicate that no such association could be found. More scientific research is needed before firm conclusions can be established.

Asparagus is most often used as a food. There is very limited research in humans on the medicinal uses of asparagus. According to the Natural Standard monograph on asparagus, it has grade C for two clinical conditions: dyspepsia (upset stomach) and galactagogue (promotes secretion of milk). A grade C means that there is unclear or conflicting scientific evidence for this use. No specific information regarding the use of asparagus and liver cell toxicity can be found.

The only precautions that the monograph talks about is that asparagus should not be taken by patients who are allergic to asparagus. Patients with edema (due to impaired kidney or heart function) should use asparagus cautiously and should consult with a qualified healthcare professional.

This is an interesting study, but I am not sure how well the results will correlate to different ethnicities? The researchers were from Korea but what was the ethnicity of the study population? Pharmacogenetic differences have been documented relating to the action of the enzymes of the liver that processes alcohol when comparing patients of an Asian heritage with others. I wonder if the up-regulation of the two liver enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, would still be seen in other groups?

Just to clarify, this study does not demonstrate that a hangover can be reduced or prevented from eating asparagus leaves. Although the study showed that asparagus compounds were great antioxidants, thus protecting the liver from the damaging effects of alcohol, a hangover is basically caused by dehydration. So, if you want to minimize a hangover the next day, drink lots of Gatorade! What’s interesting about the study is that they found the asparagus compounds exhibited excellent antioxidant effects on the liver in vitro. These findings may be entirely different in vivo and may not be as effective.

The post from rgorensh is very interesting. I did not know the hangover symptoms (headache, muscle aches) are from an electrolyte imbalance due to the loss of potassium, glucose and sodium). I would assume that asparagus extract might help a hangover by enhancing the liver's ability to metabolize alcohol, and thus, perhaps less fluid and electrolyte loss. I also wonder if the asparagus extract may have an effect on the cytochrome P450 enzymes, perhaps a role as an inducer?

The liver is the second-largest organ in the body after skin and is essential to keep the body functioning properly. It performs many body functions, such as processing the body’s nutrients, manufacturing bile to help digest fats, synthesizing many important proteins, regulating blood clotting and breaking down potentially toxic substances into harmless ones that the body can use or excrete.

Inflammation of the liver may, in severe cases, interfere with these processes and allow potentially toxic substances to accumulate. Inflammation can occur while the liver is performing its functions, such as metabolizing drugs. As far asparagus goes, no information on Natural Standard monograph was found. More evidence-based study will be needed to confirm any association between asparagus and liver cell toxicity.

While this is a very interesting study, I’m not sure how practical it is for actual clinical benefit. Asparagus leaves aren’t something you can just go to the store and buy. Maybe they can make a supplement out of it?

If the parts of asparagus we throw away have so many health benefits, then I wonder if there are other discarded plant parts with similar benefits. The chances are there are other plant parts that are just as useful, and I hope there will be more research to find them. Does anyone know of any other plant parts with such properties?

This is a very interesting article, and I am glad I like asparagus! But, I was just wondering, how much of asparagus shoots and leaves we have to consume to experience these protective properties?

I’m curious about the timing involved with this “asparagus curing hangovers” phenomenon. When does the asparagus need to be ingested? How are the benefits affected if it’s eaten days before, the day of or the day after a night of drinking? I imagine the last thing in the world a person with a hangover would want to eat that next morning would be a few (or more) asparagus stalks, so the timing behind this phenomenon plays an important role in how likely people will be to explore it.

Wow! Who knew that a little vegetable like asparagus could have such powerful effects as an antioxidant? To be able to reduce the free radicals (ROS) by 70% is a feat in itself. Not to mention that increasing the action of the liver enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase may also help to take the edge off an impending hangover! Asparagus sounds like good news for my liver.

I followed the link to the study’s abstract, but still could not find how much asparagus the study subjects ingested or how frequently. Are they referring to an average serving of 4-5 asparagus stalks, maybe eaten 2-3 times a week, or are they referring to larger quantities? I think the results could be interpreted differently based on how much asparagus needs to be ingested to see beneficial effects. If it’s an abnormally large volume, then perhaps a tablet or liquid form of asparagus extract might catch wind, but otherwise I wouldn’t expect people to start eating loads of asparagus to potentially protect themselves from liver toxicity.

This new evidence that asparagus may reduce liver toxicity is great! If further research provides additional support of its effect on the liver, then this could have a large impact on the way liver disease is handled. The reduction of free radicals and increase in enzyme function would help those with decreased liver function (liver disease pts). I wonder what formulation was used in this study. It will be interesting to see if actual formulations will be created using the leaves and shoots.

In response to T. Homer: Yes, the leaves are cut off the plant before being brought to the grocery store, etc. So the asparagus image we are used to seeing and eating does not include the leaves.

What part of the asparagus are the leaves and shoots? Are those discarded before they make it to the supermarket? Are they too fibrous to be cooked and eaten? If they are parts of the plant that can be left on and consumed, then maybe we should sell them that way and see if that is a feasible way to prevent liver damage in the broad population.

I have known that asparagus has a natural diuretic property for a while, and I wonder if this has any effect on alcohol metabolism. After reading the previous post, I think that this diuretic property (causing individuals to urinate more frequently) may actually do more harm by adding to the dehydration caused by the alcohol. On the other hand, this property may increase the excretion of toxins. Does anyone know if or how this diuretic property affects alcohol metabolism?

Asparagus has been used in different parts of the world for various purposes. It was used a diuretic to help flush out the kidneys and prevent the formation of the kidney stones in ancient Greece and Rome. It was most commonly used for cough, nerve problems and diarrhea in Asian medicine.

These days, asparagus is most commonly used as food. Asparagus should not be used if the person has any sensitivity to this product or plants from Liliaceae family. According to the Natural Standard monograph, there is a lack of information regarding the use of asparagus and liver cell toxicity. Although some work is going on, more evidence based research must be done to recommend asparagus as a way to prevent liver cell toxicity.

After reading this blog post I decided to do a little research to see why alcohol actually causes a hangover. The first thing that happens when alcohol enters the bloodstream is it signals the brain to decrease the production of vasopressin, or anti-diuretic hormone. The effect of this decreased hormone is increased urination. Drinking 250ml of alcohol causes the body to expel 800-1000ml of fluid; no wonder dehydration is the most common symptom of a hangover.

In addition to fluid loss, the body also loses potassium, sodium and glucose during urination. The depletion of these substances causes the headache, muscle weakness and fatigue the next day. Other symptoms of hangover are due to stomach irritation such as nausea, diarrhea, indigestion and decreased appetite and toxin build-up in the liver.

Well, here is yet another reason to eat asparagus. It’s too bad that it's the one veggie I really don’t like. I guess the only solution for me is to drink less, so that I would not need help reducing liver toxicity and breaking down alcohol. Then again, maybe I’ll just take asparagus in a pill form. The leaves, which are not eaten, contain more amino acids and inorganic minerals than the shoots anyway.

After looking into the studies already out there regarding asparagus, I found that this vegetable has been shown to aid in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders and in alcohol abstinence-induced withdrawal symptoms. I think that with the alcoholic epidemic, researchers will find a way to use this information to produce an asparagus-based drug.

Soon hip bars will be promoting asparagus martinis.

Will someone explain, though, what are the leaves of the asparagus plant? Are they cut off the stalks before they come to market?

I wonder what kind of effect eating those “typically discarded” portions of the asparagus would have. It would be interesting to investigate whether actual consumption of these parts would have any potential benefit over the long-term prevention of liver cell toxicity. This may be useful for people who are predisposed to liver toxicity. Could adding more asparagus to your diet possibly lead to this cytoprotective effect?

A question for further study would be does cooking/heating the asparagus leaves make a difference? I wonder if it denatures the beneficial enzymes, or if it holds the same positive effects.

I was surprised to read about the amount of benefit asparagus leaves and shoots have; a 70% reduction of toxic free radicals and more than two-fold of two liver enzymes are results that can’t be simply overlooked. I hope there will be more research performed with a patient population to confirm these results and to fully understand the benefit of asparagus.

A 70% reduction in free radical production is astounding! The benefits of asparagus to human health should be made known to everyone, as the liver is crucial to body detoxification, which leads to better health and a longer life expectancy.

I wonder what other uses asparagus could have in regard to liver toxicities. There is an apparent use for alcohol toxicity, but could it prevent cancer or hepatic diseases possibly caused by free radicals? The Natural Standard asparagus monograph has evidence of its action as an antitumor agent and inhibition of alchohol-induced tumor necrosis factor secretion. Increasing the enzymatic metabolizers of alcohol could help get alcohol out of the system faster and reduce toxicity directly, but I wonder if those enzymes have other activity related to radical oxidation that could prevent other types of cytotoxicity in hepatic tissue.

As people turn to natural remedies for disease states, it appears that as a result of this study, asparagus will probably be investigated by drug companies in order to develop a drug to treat liver cancer, cirrohosis and the like. I only say this because the study indicates that the portions of the asparagus that have the most protective effects are not usually consumed, but rather discarded.

Does this mean that asparagus extract might be helpful in treating or preventing hangovers?

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