- Weight management: One study2, 3 found that substituting red meat with white button mushrooms can help enhance weight loss. Obese participants with a mean age of just over 48 years ate approximately one cup of mushrooms per day in place of meat. The control group ate a standard diet without mushrooms.
At the end of the 12-month trial, the intervention group had lost an average of 3.6 percent of their starting weight, or about seven pounds. They also showed improvements in body composition, such as reduced waist circumference, and ability to maintain their weight loss, compared to the control group.
- Improved nutrition: One dietary analysis4 found that mushroom consumption was associated with better diet quality and improved nutrition.
- Increasing vitamin D levels through your diet: Consuming dried white button mushroom extract was found to be as effective as taking supplemental vitamin D2 or D3 for increasing vitamin D levels (25-hydroxyvitamin D).5
- Improved immune system function: Long chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha and beta glucan molecules, are primarily responsible for the mushrooms’ beneficial effect on your immune system. In one study, adding one or two servings of dried shiitake mushrooms was found to have a beneficial, modulating effect on immune system function.6 Another study done on mice found that white button mushrooms enhanced the adaptive immunity response to salmonella.7
Parasitic Fungi Showing Promise for Immune Disorders and Cancer
Cordyceps, also called caterpillar fungus or Tochukasu, is a favorite of athletes because it increases ATP production, strength and endurance, and has anti-aging effects.8
This parasitic mushroom is unique because, in the wild, it grows out of an insect host instead of a plant host. It has long been used within both traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine.
It has hypoglycemic and possible antidepressant effects, protects your liver and kidneys, increases blood flow, helps normalize your cholesterol levels, and has been used to treat Hepatitis B.
Cordyceps has antitumor properties as well. Scientists at The University of Nottingham have been studying cordycepin, one of the active medicinal compounds found in these fungi,9 and the one identified as a potential cancer drug. More recent studies suggest it also has potent anti-inflammatory characteristics that may be helpful for those suffering from:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Renal failure
- Stroke damage
A question that was begging for an answer was how cordycepin could produce so many different beneficial effects at the cellular level. Researcher Dr. Cornelia de Moor told Medical News Today:10
“We have shown that cordycepin reduces the expression of inflammatory genes in airway smooth muscle cells by acting on the final step in the synthesis of their messenger RNAs (mRNAs) which carry the chemical blueprint for the synthesis of proteins.
This process is called polyadenylation. Commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs either work much earlier in the activation of inflammatory genes, such as prednisone, or work on one of the final products of the inflammatory reaction (e.g. ibuprofen).
These findings indicate that cordycepin acts by a completely different mechanism than currently used anti-inflammatory drugs, making it a potential drug for patients in which these drugs don’t work well.
However, it is a surprise that cordycepin does not affect the synthesis of mRNAs from other genes, because nearly all mRNAs require polyadenylation.”
According to Dr. de Moor’s research, the mechanism responsible for cordycepin’s many varied effects may stem from its ability to alter the synthesis of many classes of rapidly induced genes that help counteract inflammatory genes, thereby slowing down otherwise rapid cellular responses to tissue damage. It may also help prevent over-activation of inflammatory responses.
“However, it also indicates that cordycepin could have adverse effects on normal wound healing and on the natural defenses against infectious diseases,” the featured article states.11
“Dr. de Moor said: ‘We are hoping to further investigate which genes are more dependent on polyadenylation than others and why this is the case, as well as test the effect of cordycepin on animal models of disease. Clinical testing of cordycepin is not in our immediate plans, as we think we first have to understand this drug in more detail before we can risk treating patients with it.'”