photo of shiitake mushrooms
Regular consumption of shiitake mushrooms, prized in traditional Asian medicine for their health-giving properties, can help improve immune function say Florida researchers

A mushroom a day for better immunity?

21 April, 2015

Natural Health News — Shiitake mushrooms are a symbol of longevity in Asia, their health giving properties have made them a mainstay of Chinese medicine for more than 6000 years. Now research is showing that eating them regularly could bring real health benefits.

University of Florida researcher set out to discover whether consumption of whole, dried Lentinula edodes (shiitake) mushrooms could improve human immune function. They recruited 52 healthy adults and gave each a 4-week supply of dry shiitake mushrooms. Participants took the mushrooms home, cleaned and cooked them. Then they ate one, 4-ounce serving of mushrooms each day during the experiment.

To be eligible for the study participants could not be vegans or vegetarians. They also could not drink tea, take antioxidant supplements or probiotics before the study. They also could not consume more than 14 glasses of alcoholic beverages per week or eat more than seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day during the experiment.

The reason for this, say the researchers are that fibre, tea and probiotics help the body’s immune system, and they didn’t want to start with people who already had a strong immune system. Additionally, that much alcohol could suppress immunity.

Through blood tests taken before and after the experiment, researchers saw increased immunity in the participants as measured by the presence of better-functioning gamma delta T-cells and reductions in inflammatory proteins.

Lead researcher Sue Percival, an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member noted that through eating the mushrooms, “we’re enhancing the immune system, but we’re also reducing the inflammation that the immune system produces.”

The study was published online in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.