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Mushroom Makeover

November 1, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

When I’m asked to speak about natural medicine there’s an expectation that I’ll discuss something that’s out of the ordinary. It’s not enough for me to detail the merits of eating a whole food diet, exercising regularly or sleep hygiene. There’s got to be a “hook”. In this way, my current profession is similar to my prior one as a motion picture screenwriter. Many films stick to a familiar formula – they begin with a dramatic opening sequence that demands your attention and draws you into the story that is to follow. A health presentation entitled, “Magic Mushrooms” makes a bigger impression than a lecture about “Promoting Wellness with Fruits and Vegetables”. The reality is that there’s nothing especially magical about mushrooms apart from the fact that they may improve a variety of disease states. That’s why my Healthy Monday tip of the week is to include more mushrooms in your daily diet.

The latest edition of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary medicine reports that an extract of Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa) can benefit women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a condition that this is characterized by abnormally high levels of male hormones (androgens), insulin resistance and irregular menstruation. Twenty-six patients with PCOS were given a Maitake extract (MSX) and thirty-one patients were given a medication (clomiphene citrate) in an attempt to regulate monthly cycles. Both treatments were found effective – 76.9% (MSX) and 93.5% (clomiphene citrate) ovulation rate. The women who didn’t respond to either treatment were subsequently given a combination of both. Almost all of the non-responders showed ovulation when given the combined treatment. One of the proposed mechanisms for the noted benefits is an improvement in blood sugar control that is at the heart of PCOS. Prior examinations in patients with other diseases (colorectal cancer and diabetes) have also demonstrated the ability of other mushrooms to lower fasting and post-meal glycemia. (1,2,3)

Several population studies in women have raised the possibility that dietary mushrooms may reduce breast cancer incidence. The May 2010 issue of the journal Nutrition and Cancer documents a 70% lower risk of hormone receptor positive tumors in premenopausal women who consumed the largest quantities of mushrooms vs. those who consumed the least. Similar findings were presented in May 2009 in the International Journal of Cancer. In this instance, both pre and postmenopausal women experienced a protective effect based on the level of mushroom intake. But what set this inquiry apart is that it also evaluated the role that green tea played in breast cancer development. The authors concluded that “mushrooms decreased breast cancer risk in pre- and postmenopausal Chinese women and an additional decreased risk of breast cancer from joint effects of mushrooms and green tea was observed”. A 2008 investigation likewise found a “strong inverse association” between mushroom intake and postmenopausal breast cancer protection. (4,5,6)

The prior examples have focused primarily on women’s health issues. But mushrooms are by no means gender-specific. A fungus commonly known as Lion’s Mane (Hericum erinaceus) is rapidly building a reputation as a natural memory and mental health aid. Published studies from 2009 and 2010 reveal that this edible mushroom is capable of improving anxiety, depression and even mild cognitive impairment in seniors of both sexes. The enhancement of memory and mental functioning appear to be related to H. erinaceus’ ability to induce nerve growth factors that may counter neurodegenerative impairment including Alzheimer’s disease. Evidence of this activity was recently presented in a 7 day experiment in mice. Japanese researchers discovered an increased level of nerve growth factor in the hippocampal region of the test animals brought about by a diet consisting of 5% H. erinaceus powder. (7,8,9)

White Button Mushrooms May Enhance Natural Killer Cell Activity
Source: J. Nutr. 137:1472-1477, June 2007 (link)

I realize that some of the above-mentioned mushrooms aren’t readily available in most super markets and smaller health food stores. The good news is that even the most “ordinary” mushrooms, including the white button variety (Agaricus bisporus), are shining brightly of late in the medical literature. Over the past few years, studies involving A. bisporus intake in both animals and human subjects have yielded very promising results in several key areas of health including: a) lowering blood sugar, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides; b) supporting liver health – as demonstrated by reductions in liver enzymes; c) elevating HDL (“good”) cholesterol. White button mushrooms also contribute valuable nutrients including vitamin B12. (10,11)

There’s yet another reason to consider adding more mushrooms to your burgers, omelets, soups and salads. Doing so can lower your daily caloric intake and, thereby, support a healthier weight. A recent trial conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health discovered that substituting mushrooms for beef in meals effectively lowered calories per meal by over 400 kcal, while the volume of the meals remained constant. But here’s the really interesting part of the study. The participants rated the mushroom substitutes favorably with respect to appetite considerations and palatability.  The conclusion of the investigation stated that “substituting low ED (energy density) foods for high ED foods in otherwise similar recipes can be an effective method for reducing daily energy”. When you factor in the health promoting properties of mushrooms, this proposed strategy seems all the more attractive. (12)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Food and Drink, Memory, Nutrition

19 Comments & Updates to “Mushroom Makeover”

  1. anne h Says:

    Awesome magic mushrooms!
    You had me at “wellness!”

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, Anne! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. Mark Says:

    Can supplements provide the same benefits as fresh mushrooms? Many companies sell a variety of mushroom supplements.

    Nutritionally…cooked or fresh…is one better than the other?

  4. Nina K. Says:

    OMG! I want those mushrooms on the pic above ☺☺☺ lol, they look great ☻ hahaaa

    A yay for mushrooms 🙂

    Nina K.

  5. JP Says:


    Some of the positive research (ex: the cognitive enhancement and PCOS studies) presented above is based on trials involving mushroom supplements.

    It seems as though cooking is preferable. Here’s a recent piece about this very topic by Dr. Andrew Weil:


    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    I agree, Nina! What a cool and exotic looking mushroom. It’s straight out of a science fiction film! 🙂

    Be well!


  7. Diana Says:

    I think they look great! Weird but awesome they look like jelly fish lol…

  8. Susie Muckleroy Says:

    Thanks for all your useful information! I am really glad to read this, we eat mushroom often, I LOVE THEM!

  9. suzanne carolyn cyr Says:

    thank you so much for the information on mushroom,
    I was born in the 1950’s and I was told that pretty much all mushrooms were poisonous.
    that is like saying all green herbs plants are poisonous.
    but I would have to examine it under a microscope before eating a wild mushroom.
    thanks for the vit d tip of putting our mushrooms in the sun gils up to get lots of vit d…

  10. Michele Facini Says:

    I stumbled upon your blog searching for mushrooms! I love mushrooms, but wanted to know about more species. First, I have to say that white mushroom is cool looking….but I am anxious to try some you’ve mentioned here. I will be soon starting a Raw Food Diet. Thanks for the info. I will be back!!

  11. JP Says:

    Update: A great review about the health benefits of edible mushrooms …

    Full Text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/

    Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. doi: 10.1155/2015/376387. Epub 2015 Jan 20.
    Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life.

    Mushrooms have been consumed since earliest history; ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle, and the Romans perceived them as the “Food of the Gods.” For centuries, the Chinese culture has treasured mushrooms as a health food, an “elixir of life.” They have been part of the human culture for thousands of years and have considerable interest in the most important civilizations in history because of their sensory characteristics; they have been recognized for their attractive culinary attributes. Nowadays, mushrooms are popular valuable foods because they are low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium: also, they are cholesterol-free. Besides, mushrooms provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, proteins, and fiber. All together with a long history as food source, mushrooms are important for their healing capacities and properties in traditional medicine. It has reported beneficial effects for health and treatment of some diseases. Many nutraceutical properties are described in mushrooms, such as prevention or treatment of Parkinson, Alzheimer, hypertension, and high risk of stroke. They are also utilized to reduce the likelihood of cancer invasion and metastasis due to antitumoral attributes. Mushrooms act as antibacterial, immune system enhancer and cholesterol lowering agents; additionally, they are important sources of bioactive compounds. As a result of these properties, some mushroom extracts are used to promote human health and are found as dietary supplements.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Update: Mushrooms may aid blood sugar management …


    Hypoglycaemic Activity of Culinary Pleurotus ostreatus and P. cystidiosus Mushrooms in Healthy Volunteers and Type 2 Diabetic Patients on Diet Control and the Possible Mechanisms of Action

    This study determined the oral hypoglycaemic effect of suspensions of freeze dried and powdered (SFDP) Pleurotus ostreatus (P.o) and Pleurotus cystidiosus (P.c), using healthy human volunteers and Type 2 diabetic patients on diet control at a dose of 50 mg/kg/body weight, followed by a glucose load. The possible hypoglycaemic mechanisms were evaluated using rats, by examining intestinal glucose absorption and serum levels of insulin, glucokinase (GK) and glycogen synthase kinase (GSK). The P.o and P.c showed a significant reduction (P < 0.05) in fasting and postprandial serum glucose levels of healthy volunteers and reduced the postprandial serum glucose levels and increased the serum insulin levels (P < 0.05) of Type 2 diabetic patients. The P.o and P.c increased the intestinal absorption of glucose but simultaneously reduced the serum glucose levels (P < 0.05) in rats. Both mushrooms reduced the serum GSK and promoted insulin secretion while P.c increased serum GK (P < 0.05). The hypoglycaemic activity of P.o and P.c makes mushrooms beneficial functional foods in diabetes mellitus. The mechanism of hypoglycaemic activity of P.o and P.c is possibly by increasing GK activity and promoting insulin secretion and thereby increasing the utilization of glucose by peripheral tissues, inhibiting GSK and promoting glycogen synthesis. Be well! JP

  13. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:


    Cancer. 2015 May 18.

    A phase I trial of mushroom powder in patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer: Roles of cytokines and myeloid-derived suppressor cells for Agaricus bisporus-induced prostate-specific antigen responses.

    BACKGROUND: Each year in the United States, nearly 50,000 prostate cancer patients exhibit a rise in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can indicate disease recurrence. For patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer, we evaluated the effects of white button mushroom (WBM) powder on serum PSA levels and determined the tolerability and biological activity of WBM.

    METHODS: Patients with continuously rising PSA levels were enrolled in the study. Dose escalation was conducted in cohorts of 6; this ensured that no more than 1 patient per cohort experienced dose-limiting toxicity (DLT). The primary objective was to evaluate treatment feasibility and associated toxicity. The secondary objectives were to determine WBM’s effect on serum PSA/androgen levels; myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs); and cytokine levels.

    RESULTS: Thirty-six patients were treated; no DLTs were encountered. The overall PSA response rate was 11%. Two patients receiving 8 and 14 g/d demonstrated complete response (CR): their PSA declined to undetectable levels that continued for 49 and 30 months. Two patients who received 8 and 12 g/d experienced partial response (PR). After 3 months of therapy, 13 (36%) patients experienced some PSA decrease below baseline. Patients with CR and PR demonstrated higher levels of baseline interleukin-15 than nonresponders; for this group, we observed therapy-associated declines in MDSCs.

    CONCLUSIONS: Therapy with WBM appears to both impact PSA levels and modulate the biology of biochemically recurrent prostate cancer by decreasing immunosuppressive factors.

    Be well!


  14. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:

    Something to keep in mind!


    Foraging and eating wild mushrooms can result in liver failure and even death because mistaking toxic mushrooms for edible varieties is common, illustrates a case published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

    “Distinguishing safe from harmful mushrooms is a challenge even for mycologists,” writes Dr. Adina Weinerman, Division of General Internal Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, with coauthors.

    Full Paper: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2015/07/13/cmaj.150080

    Fulminant hepatic failure following ingestion of wild mushrooms

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Updated 11/11/15:


    Nutr Hosp. 2015 Nov 1;32(n05):2126-2135.


    INTRODUCTION: fibromyalgia is a chronic disease characterized by generalized pain, stiffness, poor physical conditioning, non-restorative sleep and poor health-related quality of life. Ganoderma lucidum a type of mushroom that has demonstrated several benefits in different populations. Ceratonia siliqua is a natural therapy rich in antioxidants with potential benefits on health.

    OBJECTIVE: to evaluate the effects of 6-week treatment of Ganoderma lucidum and Ceratonia siliqua on physical fitness in patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

    METHODS: sixty-four women with fibromyalgia participated in the study. They took 6 g of Ganoderma lucidum or Ceratonia siliqua per day for 6 weeks. Different fitness tests were selected in order to evaluate functional capacity.

    RESULTS: after the 6-week treatment period, Ganoderma lucidum significantly improved aerobic endurance, lower body flexibility, and velocity (p < .05). No significant improvement in any physical test was observed in the Ceratonia siliqua group. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Ganoderma lucidum may improve physical fitness in women with fibromyalgia, whereas, Ceratonia siliqua seemed to be ineffective at increasing physical fitness. These results may indicate that Ganoderma lucidum might be a useful dietary supplement to enhance physical performance of the patients suffering from fibromyalgia. Be well! JP

  16. JP Says:

    Updated 02/12/17:


    Pharm Biol. 2017 Dec;55(1):1041-1046.

    Triterpenoids and polysaccharide peptides-enriched Ganoderma lucidum: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy in healthy volunteers.

    CONTEXT: Ganoderma lucidum (Leyss: Fr) Karst. (Polyporaceae) is an oriental medicinal fungus, commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for treating various condition or diseases such as hypertension, hyperglycaemia, hepatitis and cancer.

    OBJECTIVE: The current study examines whether triterpenoids and polysaccharide-enriched G. lucidum (GL) influence antioxidation and hepatoprotective efficacy by suppressing oxidative stress.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty-two healthy subjects (22 male and 20 female) were recruited and segregated into two groups as experimental or placebo and requested to intake GL (n = 21) or placebo (n = 21) capsule (225 mg; after lunch or dinner) for six consecutive months and vice versa with one month washout period in between. The anthropometric analysis and biochemical assays, as well as abdominal ultrasonic examination were performed.

    RESULTS: Consumption of GL substantially improved (p < 0.05) the total antioxidant capacity (TEAC; 79.33-84.04), total thiols and glutathione content (6-8.05) in plasma as well as significant (p < 0.05) enhanced the activities of antioxidant enzymes. Whereas, the levels of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS; 3.37-2.47), 8-hydroxy-deoxy-guanosine (8-OH-dG; 15.99-11.98) and hepatic marker enzymes (glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase; GOT and glutamic-pyruvic transaminase; GPT) were concomitantly reduced (42 and 27%) on treatment with GL. Furthermore, the abdominal ultrasonic examination in GL subjects displayed a notable alteration on hepatic condition by reversing from mild fatty liver condition (initial) to normal condition.

    DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: The outcome of the present intervention demonstrated the antioxidation, anti-aging and hepatoprotective nature of GL by effectively curbing oxidative stress.

    Be well!


  17. JP Says:

    Updated 03/22/17:


    J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Mar 13.

    Mushroom Consumption and Incident Dementia in Elderly Japanese: The Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study.

    BACKGROUND: Both in vivo and in vitro studies have indicated that edible mushrooms may have preventive effects against cognitive impairment. However, few cohort studies have yet examined the relationship between mushroom consumption and incident dementia.

    OBJECTIVE: We examined the relationship between mushroom consumption and incident dementia in a population of elderly Japanese subjects.

    DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

    SETTING: Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study.

    PARTICIPANTS: 13,230 individuals aged ≥65 years living in Ohsaki City, northeastern Japan.

    MEASUREMENTS: Daily mushroom consumption, other lifestyle factors, and dementia incidence.

    RESULTS: The 5.7 years incidence of dementia was 8.7%. In comparison with participants who consumed mushrooms <1 time/wk, the multi-adjusted HRs (95% CI) for incident dementia among those did so 1-2 times/week and ≥3 times/week were 0.95 (0.81, 1.10) and 0.81 (0.69, 0.95), respectively (P-trend <.01). The inverse association persisted after excluding participants whose dementia event occurred in the first 2 years of follow-up and whose baseline cognitive function was lower. The inverse association did not differ statistically in terms of vegetable consumption (P-interaction = .10).

    CONCLUSIONS: This cohort study suggests that frequent mushroom consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of incident dementia, even after adjustment for possible confounding factors.

    Be well!


  18. JP Says:

    Updated 05/27/17:


    Food Chem. 2017 Oct 15;233:429-433.

    Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione.

    While mushrooms are the highest dietary source for the unique sulfur-containing antioxidant ergothioneine, little is known regarding levels of the major biological antioxidant glutathione. Thus, our objectives were to determine and compare levels of glutathione, as well as ergothioneine, in different species of mushrooms. Glutathione levels varied >20-fold (0.11-2.41mg/gdw) with some varieties having higher levels than reported for other foods. Ergothioneine levels also varied widely (0.15-7.27mg/gdw) and were highly correlated with those of glutathione (r=0.62, P<0.001). Both antioxidants were more concentrated in pileus than stipe tissues in selected mushrooms species. Agaricus bisporus harvested during the third cropping flush contained higher levels of ergothioneine and glutathione compared to the first flush, possibly as a response to increased oxidative stress. This study demonstrated that certain mushroom species are high in glutathione and ergothioneine and should be considered an excellent dietary source of these important antioxidants.

  19. JP Says:

    Updated 10/17/18:


    Int J Med Mushrooms. 2018;20(8):705-716.

    Randomized Clinical Trial for the Evaluation of Immune Modulation by Yogurt Enriched with β-Glucans from Lingzhi or Reishi Medicinal Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum (Agaricomycetes), in Children from Medellin, Colombia.

    Pattern recognition receptor (PRR) agonists are promising for use in modulating immune responses in clinical settings characterized by immune immaturity or deficiency. β-Glucans derived from Ganoderma lucidum have demonstrated immune-modulatory activity both in vitro and in vivo. To evaluate the immunomodulatory activity of orally administered β-glucans, a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical study was performed in asymptomatic children, aged 3 to 5 years old, from Medellin, Colombia. Primary outcomes were the circulating CD8+ T lymphocyte and natural killer cell counts; secondary outcomes were circulating lymphocyte counts (total, CD3+, and CD4+ T cells), serum concentrations of total immunoglobulin A and cytokines, and various hematological parameters. The treatments were administered daily for 12 weeks, and physical and laboratory evaluations were performed at days 0 and 84. Children in the group receiving a yogurt with β-glucans presented a significantly higher absolute count of peripheral blood total lymphocytes (CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells) than that in the group receiving placebo. The interventions were safe and well tolerated; no abnormal increases in serum creatinine or hepatic aminotransferases occurred, and adherence was higher than 90% in the intervention groups. This study demonstrates that β-glucans from G. lucidum increase the frequency of immune system cells in the peripheral blood; these cells are critical in the defense against infectious threats in asymptomatic children 3 to 5 years old. These findings warrant longer controlled clinical trials that aim to evaluate the efficacy of β-glucans in preventing infections in healthy children and to define their potential to enhance lymphoid cell number and functions in various lymphoid immune deficiencies.

    Be well!


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