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How mushroom extract has become a popular nutritional supplement

Pulished on Nov. 13, 2019

Natural foods known as “functional edible mushrooms” are listed as one of the top ten food trends in 2018. Suddenly, powders and extracts of Ganoderma lucidum, Chaga, Cordyceps sinensis, and Shigtake mushroom appear in everything from coffee, tea, smoothies, broths, chocolates to face creams and shower gels.

According to data from market research firm Grand View Research, US mushroom sales in 2017 were nearly $5 billion, and the market is expected to increase to $7.4 billion in the next three years. On the websites of companies that specialize in mushrooms, they often say that they provide energy, emotional boost, vitality and endurance (cordyceps militaris extract), anti-tumor and cancer growth (Ganoderma lucidum).

An article in The Guardian analyzes the true utility of edible mushrooms and the real progress in medicine. Dr. Nicholas Money, a professor of biology at the University of Miami, believes that some of these compounds may have significant characteristics, but he said that marketing is far beyond what science supports.

Mushrooms related to medicinal use are usually not very tasty, such as the taste and texture of Chaga is like bark. However, from a nutritional point of view, ordinary edible mushrooms are low in calories, rich in protein and fiber, and are a good source of vitamin B and potassium, copper, selenium and other minerals.

A 2017 study by Penn State University showed that mushroom powders contain very high levels of the antioxidants ergothione and glutathione, which help protect cells from diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D through ultraviolet radiation in the sun, which is a good source of dietary fiber.

In modern medicine, the most studied medicinal mushroom is Yunzhi. Studies on humans and animals have shown that a component of the Yunzhi, a polysaccharide-K (PSK), may stimulate the immune system. In clinical trials, it appears to be a supplement to improve survival in patients with gastric or colon cancer. Although the evidence is not so strong, it may also benefit patients with other cancers.

A similar compound is lentinan extracted from shiitake mushrooms, which combines with chemotherapy to prolong the lives of patients with gastric cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and liver cancer. PSK and shiitake mushroom extract are approved in Japan as a supplement to conventional therapies for cancer treatment.

But the above two are examples.

Maitake Mushroom Extract

Maitake Mushroom Extract

In most cases, research has not gone beyond the scope of laboratory test tubes and animal studies. In mouse experiments, the researchers found that Chaga extract can enhance learning and memory, reduce inflammation, increase exercise tolerance and reduce polysaccharides. The extract of lion mushroom can accelerate wound healing in rats and help restore damaged nerves. However, these varieties help prevent or treat human diseases and there is still a lack of evidence in clinical research.

In the health food market, how do businesses do it?

The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) only allows us to say that mushrooms have antioxidant properties, support the immune system and general health – this is something we can do. It is difficult to put the facts without clinical research on humans. Separated from fiction."

The efficacy of the mushroom product sounds a bit special, but it is somewhat vague, and these are intentional. Unlike drugs, nutritional supplements are only loosely regulated by the FDA, as long as the manufacturer does not say that it can diagnose, treat, cure or prevent the disease. In practice, a company may refer to its mushroom products as “immune activators,” but it is not explicitly stated that improving immunity can prevent disease.