Thursday, March 8, 2012

Awesome Asparagus by Jerry Brainum

 It’s a veggie with radical health benefits

The U.S. government recently upgraded its recommended intake of fruits and vegetables from five to nine servings a day. If you look at nutrition research, however, you’ll find that the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables is at least 11 servings a day. Such foods contain thousands of chemicals called phytonutrients that are not found anywhere else, including most supplements.
   Most phytonutrients pro­vide po­tent detoxifying and antioxidant effects. That’s the reason fruits and vegetables help prevent the two greatest killers: cardiovascular disease and cancer. The plant chemicals are so potent that they can interact with genes in many of their activities in the body. A recent example of the power of natural foods comes from a study involving asparagus.
    Asparagus has natural diuretic and antiviral properties and fosters antimutagenic activity, or the destruction of incipient tumors. The vegetable’s only known side effect is that it can impart a pungent odor to urine in some people. The odor comes from the six sulfur compounds, including DMSO, that it contains. The odor of asparagus also varies with the genetics of people who eat it and is not exhibited or even detected by everyone.
    In the new study asparagus was found to have potent insulin-stimulating effects while simul­taneously inhibiting starch digestion. An in vitro, or isolated-cell, study, the experiment involved pancreatic cells, which secrete insulin. When the cells were exposed to both an asparagus extract and glucose, or sugar, insulin activity increased by 19 to 248 percent. The extract produced an 81 percent increase of glucose uptake into fat cells, an effect attributed to a possible increase in cellular glucose-transporting proteins. Asparagus also produced a 21 percent decrease in starch digestion.
    The effect is connected to an interaction with calcium ions in the beta cells of the pancreas, where insulin is synthesized and released. A drug that blocks calcium ion activity also prevented the effect of asparagus on insulin release from the beta cells.
     How can bodybuilders use the information? First, eating asparagus may be useful for those with a genetic predisposition for diabetes, because asparagus may help increase insulin effectiveness. Since insulin is also a potent anabolic hormone, asparagus may be useful for those who want to increase insulin release for purposes of increased muscle protein and glycogen synthesis.
    While the starch-blocking effect sounds useful for promoting fat loss, the authors note that it may not work as well in the human body as it does in a cell culture.

Mathews, J.N., Flatt, P.R., and Abdel-Wahab, Y.H. (2006). Asparagus adscendens (Shweta musali) stimulates insulin secretion, insulin action and inhibits starch digestion. Br J Nutr. 95(3):576-81.

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