Image by Bluebird Provisions from Pixabay
Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog
Benefits of Mushrooms for Longevity
Prominently displayed in the produce section of grocery stores, mushrooms are a source of fiber, vitamin D and potassium. With continued scientific inquiry, people are discovering the additional benefits of mushrooms for longevity.
Due to immune senescence, or the aging of the immune system, older adults are at an increased risk of disease. Thus, it makes sense to find ways to strengthen the immune system with age. Mushrooms for longevity are one way to do this.
According to a long term published study involving more than 15,000 Americans, people who consumed mushrooms daily had a lower risk of death from all causes.
You may be wondering what’s in mushrooms that helps people live longer.
Mushrooms contain a potent antioxidant known as L-ergothioneine.
L-ergothioneine has the ability to preserve telomere length, as well as lengthen telomeres.
Telomeres, the caps on the ends of the chromosomes, shorten each time a cell divides.
Shortened telomeres are associated with age-related diseases. Oxidative stress is believed to be a cause of shortened telomeres.
Antioxidants, such as L-ergothioneine, may mitigate the shortening of telomeres.
Other benefits of L-ergothioneine include reduced risk of the following diseases:
The benefits of mushrooms aren’t limited to L-ergothioneine.
Beta glucans, natural polysaccharides in mushrooms, can reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by reducing glucose and cholesterol levels.
The antioxidant effects of beta glucans also contribute to lowering the risk of cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and atherosclerosis.
There are several types of mushrooms that provide health and longevity benefits from beta glucans and L-ergothioneine.
Types of Mushrooms for Longevity
One of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in Asia, shiitake has a long history of use in Chinese medicine and in cuisine.
Beta glucans in shiitake mushrooms demonstrated the ability to reduce infection caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria in an animal model.
Shiitake mushrooms have also been shown to have antiviral properties, which may be effective in treating infections.
Over a four week period, immunity improved, including T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell response, in men and women who consumed shiitake mushrooms. Their C-reactive protein levels went down also, indicating they had less inflammation.
Commonly growing on trees, such as the birch, chaga mushrooms have multiple mechanisms for reducing disease risk.
Mice that were subjected to drug-induced immunosuppression saw improved immune responses when given an extract from chaga mushrooms. Tumor necrosis factor alpha, a cytokine protein associated with the pathogenesis of disease, was suppressed by the chaga extract.
Fortunately, the maitake is available in the produce section of many grocery stores. It can be easily incorporated into many entrees.
Beta glucans are a common constituent in mushrooms that promise to have multiple health benefits.
Published research has demonstrated that maitake mushrooms can stimulate the immune system, specifically macrophage activity.
Macrophages are specialized cells that engulf bacteria and other harmful microbes.
Maitake mushrooms were also used to stimulate the immune system with NK (natural killer) cells from the presence of beta glucans.
Reishi mushrooms may be the shining star among mushrooms.
Possibly the most promising and beneficial of mushrooms, reishi have multiple compounds which are beneficial for fighting disease and aging.
Used medicinally for thousands of years, science is now validating the wide ranging health benefits of reishi mushrooms.
Apart from extending the lifespan of mice by as much as 20%, reishi is also effective therapeutically against many other diseases associated with aging.
For example, reishi is able to mitigate the effects of beta-amyloid plaque associated with the disease process in Alzheimers.
Extracts from the reishi mushroom were able to suppress inflammatory factors believed to be involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease. The authors of the study concluded that it may be a possible treatment for Parkinson’s.
Polysaccharides from the reishi mushroom were used by researchers to effectively lower blood glucose in rats with type 2 diabetes.
The authors of an animal model study involving allergic rhinitis, concluded that reishi may be a useful treatment for mitigating allergies.
What makes reishi mushrooms effective?
Triterpenes, polysaccharides and ganoderma lucidum peptides are the compounds that scientists have isolated which they believe give reishi mushrooms their medicinal properties.
Reishi mushrooms provide protection of DNA against oxidative stress when given at low doses.
The compounds in reishi mushrooms provide health benefits across a wide spectrum including:
- Broad spectrum increases in antioxidant levels
- Protection against kidney failure
- Increased lifespan in mammals
Another positive aspect of reishi mushrooms is that even at high doses no toxicity was detected in the human subjects.
Reishi Mushrooms and Cancer
Although the authors of a meta-analysis found insufficient evidence to recommend reishi as an initial cancer therapy, patients who were given reishi in combination with chemo/radiotherapy had a better response to the treatment than patients who received chemo/radiotherapy by itself.
In another study with positive results, an isolated compound in reishi mushrooms demonstrated significant effectiveness against drug-resistant cancer cells.
Additional Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
Stroke patients have reason to be optimistic about reishi mushrooms. Extracts from reishi mushrooms provided neuroprotective benefits by reducing the area of the brain that was damaged by the stroke.
Researchers found that the reishi mushroom can protect the brain against injury from hypoxia caused by a stroke.
Reishi mushrooms may also benefit people with diabetes in multiple ways:
- Reduction of blood glucose
- Inhibition of carbohydrate digestion
- Prevention of advanced glycation end products
Another important benefit of the reishi mushroom is how it protects the liver. Reishi demonstrated the ability to protect the liver from inflammation caused by a bacterial infection.
By inhibiting beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that’s elevated during liver disease, such as cirrhosis, reishi provides a protective effect for the liver.
Fibrosis, which is present during non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, was decreased by an intervention using the reishi mushroom.
Incorporating Mushrooms into Your Health Regimen
With all the benefits that mushrooms provide, it would be wise to include them in your diet and health plan as much as possible.
You have several options for including mushrooms for longevity into your health regimen.
Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms are available in many grocery stores, and can be incorporated into many recipes.
Make sure you’re cooking your mushrooms before eating them to enhance the nutritional content. Grilling and microwaving seem to be the best ways to cook mushrooms.
Additionally, shiitake mushrooms should be fully cooked before eating to avoid flagellate dermatitis.
Where you can’t include mushrooms in your diet, they’re also available as supplements. All four mushrooms described above are available in supplement form.
By combining mushrooms in your food with supplements, you can maximize the health and longevity benefits that they offer.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.