I’m experimenting with my headlines – apologies if this one seems too click-baity.
Yet the headline is not misleading. In my journey down the proverbial rabbit hole of methionine research, I experienced multiple shocks.
There’s nothing inherently shocking about methionine. It’s one of the nine essential amino acids – building blocks of protein that our bodies cannot make and therefore must come from our diet. Once our digestive system breaks down the proteins that we eat into amino acids, they can be used for energy or as components in proteins that we need for normal growth and repair. Elementary stuff that I learned in Bio 101.
But until a friend sent me an article from Dr. Gregor’s Medical Nutrition Blog, I had no idea that many cancer cells have a metabolic defect – an absolute dependence on methionine.
Researchers at the University of California became aware of this defect in cancer cells back in 1974. They reported that when normal and malignant cancer cells are put in a growth medium that includes methionine, only malignant cells remain in the flask after three weeks. That flask serves as the control in which the crowding out of normal cells by the malignant cells is expected.
In contrast, if the medium contains homocystine (a methionine precursor) but no methionine, the cancer cells die. After just one week, only normal cells remain in the methionine-free flask.
How had I never heard of this? How do I get that to happen to the cancer cells inside me?
In the article my friend had sent me, Dr. Gregor advises lowering methionine intake through a “predominantly vegan diet.” So I need to go vegan after all? What exactly would it mean to drastically decrease my intake of this one amino acid?
Sorting foods by methionine content in the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 shows that parmesan cheese, eggs, many different types of fish and seafood, as well as beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, ostrich and antelope have the highest amounts of methionine per 100 grams (g) of each food.
It’s clear that high-protein animal foods are rich in methionine, but sesame flour actually has more methionine (1.66g methionine per 100g of flour) than whale meat (1.35g methionine per 100g of meat).
Spirulina (a form of blue-green algae), soy protein isolate and brazil nuts are also up there, with 1.15g, 1.13g and 1.12g of methionine per 100g, respectively. In comparison, chuck eye beef and a hind-shank of lamb have only 1.06g of methionine each per 100g.
Looks like restricting dietary methionine isn’t quite as simple as just following a vegan diet. It would have to be a vegan diet with quite a few additional restrictions.
Skipping to page 201 of the 200+ pages of foods ranked for methionine content by the
National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 reveals that I wouldn’t even have to be strictly vegan. I could successfully follow a virtually methionine-free diet by making duck, turkey and goose fat my staple foods. Along with various hydrogenated vegetable oils and beer.
True, many great veggies and fruits have 0.01g of methionine per 100g or less. So, all joking aside, I do believe that I’d have the discipline to follow an ultra-low methionine diet. I could give up cheese, salmon, seeds, nuts, whale and countless other foods in favor of mostly fruits and veggies. Of course, I’d need to supplement with pea protein powder, which is naturally low in methionine.While there’s still about 0.15g of methionine per serving, that’s a trade off I’d have to make to ensure I’m getting enough of all the other essential and conditionally essential amino acids.
Plus, I’d need to take vitamin B12, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, calcium, iron pills and likely other nutrients that I haven’t even thought of.
The change would be costly and might leave me slightlyat times. Despite all that, it would be worth it if the drastic reduction in methionine killed all my cancer cells. But would the same thing that happened in that methionine-free flask happen in my body too?
For how long would I have to restrict methionine? Would I be risking my health by keeping methionine intake so minimal?
Surely, scientists must have answered these questions over the 40+ years since the breakthrough discovery was made at the University of California.
In my next post, I’ll dig into this 40+ years of research to uncover more shocking truths.
As for my turmeric cooking adventures, I must report that I haven’t tried making any new turmeric dishes since the last post. However, I have again successfully prepared both the turmeric potatoes and the turmeric stew that I blogged about in my previous posts.
That’s two turmeric dishes in one week! I’m especially proud of my kitchen prowess since this second week of cycle 4 on my Xeloda chemo meds has zapped my energy levels. Nothing like the promise of good food to rally me off the couch and to the stove.