Tag Archives: vitamin D

How Mushrooms Effect Longevity

For centuries people have searched for the secret to longevity.  Whytelomeres do some people live a longer life than others? How is it that some people look and feel a lot younger than their age?  Though some may say it is due to chance and good genes, the secret may lie in telomeres, their length and their configuration on chromosomes.

Telomeres are stretches of DNA found on the tip of chromosomes that protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide, and hold the secret to how we age and why we get cancer.  These important endcaps prevent the chromosome from fraying and fusing together thereby keeping genetic information intact and preventing the scrambling of data.  Each time a cell divides (which can be 50 -70 times in our lifetime) telomeres get shorter until they eventually can no longer offer protection resulting in an inactive or dead cell.  Studies have determined that telomere length influences health and longevity and that there is a direct link between short telomeres and Alzheimer’s, hardening of arteries, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Whereas an infant has much longer telomeres than an adult, there are factors other than age that can reduce their length.  These include: childhood trauma, sexual abuse, chronic and oxidative stress, alcohol, smoking, obesity and inflammation.  Telomeres only shorten in tissues where cells divide continuously such as skin, muscle, blood, and those in most internal organs as well as cancerous cells.  Compromised telomeres can cause chromosomes to fuse, resulting in genetic instability that leads to cancer.

Cancerous cells divide prolifically and though telomeres do get shorter as a result, the cells do not seem to die.  This is because an enzyme called telomerase, whose function is to maintain the length of the telomeres, is activated.  Scientists believe that finding a way to inhibit telomerase activity in cancerous cells would restrict the replication of these tumorous cells and eventually kill them off.

Several varieties of mushrooms have been studied for their ability to reduce telomerase activity in cancerous cells.  These include: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris), Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and Wood ear (Auricularia auricula).

  • Reishi – In a breast cancer study done in 2011, Reishi was shown to contain biological compounds that are cytotoxic to cancer cells while leaving non-cancerous cells intact. Separately, researchers concluded that Reishi could be a potential source of chemopreventive agents for bladder cancer due to its ability to suppress telomerase activity.  Others believe that Reishi’s effectiveness in inhibiting telomerase activity is due to its ability to reduce damage from oxidative stress.
  • Cordyceps – Lung cancer researchers determined that Cordyceps constrained telomerase activity in tumorous cells by decreasing a subunit of telomerase (hTERT). Another study involving Cordycepin isolated from Cordyceps, showed its ability to inactivate telomerase in Leukemia cells.
  • Oyster Mushroom, Shiitake and Wood ear – Several studies involving these mushroom extracts concluded they all have cytotoxic effect on cancerous cells and a “strong positive telomerase inhibitory activity”.

With such promising anti-cancerous results, particularly as it relates to telomerase inhibition, mushrooms (both edible and medicinal) are of considerable importance to human health.  Furthermore, mushrooms are one of the few food groups that naturally produce Vitamin D, one factor that can lengthen telomeres and thus extend life.  (Other factors are Omega-3, Folic acid, meditation and exercise).  Research shows that people with low concentrations of Vitamin D have 5 less years of life compared to those with sufficient levels.

Longer telomeres lead to longevity and telomerase inhibition destroys cancerous cells, two good reasons to continue to consume mushrooms for your health, wellness and a longer life.


Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.



Sources:  learn.genetics.utah.edu, alive.com, Park, EP et al Food and Chemical Toxicology (2009), Journals of Medicine and Hygiene (2013), Liu, J et al American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2013), Tuohimaa, P Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (2009), PubMed 21888505, 25282637, 24940901.


Oyster Mushrooms and Heart Health

February is Heart Health month bringing awareness to heart Do you love mushrooms?disease, the leading cause of death in the United States with 900,000 deaths annually.  The risk of cardiovascular disease can be greatly reduced by making a few lifestyle adjustments that include relaxation techniques, a wholesome diet and exercise.

Heart disease is the result of restricted blood flow to vital organs and tissues in the body due to damaged artery walls and plaque build-up.  Cholesterol plaque can begin forming on the artery walls as early as childhood and progress slowly as we age.  A heart attack or stroke usually occurs when a piece of plaque breaks off the artery wall or a blood clot forms on the plaque’s surface resulting in blockage.

Although scientists have not pinpointed the exact cause of plaque build-up, researchers believe that it is primarily the result of smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.  Other contributing factors exist however including obesity, diabetes, stress, minimal consumption of fruits and vegetables, excessive alcohol intake and lack of physical activity.  The good news is that many of these behaviors can be modified to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

One of the easiest modifications to help prevent plaque development is through good nutrition and exercise.  Adding Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) to your diet is a great way to start.  These gourmet mushrooms are widely cultivated, readily available in grocery stores and online and can be added (cooked) to many recipes from soups to stews, salads and meats and even desserts!  These mushrooms are packed with nutrients and are especially high in antioxidants, have little effect on blood sugar levels and are low in calories.

Oyster mushrooms have a natural cholesterol reducing effect similar to lovastatin, a synthesized drug that treats patients with excessive blood cholesterol and is known to lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  These mushrooms have been widely studied for their effect on modulating blood cholesterol levels including a study done in 2004 by the National Institute of Health with HIV patients.  Patients were given a tea made from dried Oyster mushrooms and though some participants did not complete the study complaining that the concoction did not taste good, there was enough evidence to conclude that Oyster mushrooms had the ability to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in these patients.

In a separate 2003 animal study published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, scientists added Oyster mushrooms to the diet of rats and discovered that it reduced plasma total cholesterol by @28% (“bad” LDL cholesterol was reduced by 55%, triglycerides by 34% and “good” cholesterol increased by 21%).  They concluded that adding Oyster mushrooms to a daily diet can prevent plaque from forming in arteries of patients with high cholesterol levels.

Oyster mushrooms, like other gourmet fungi, are a functional food meaning that they have healing and health promoting benefits and can be consumed daily without issue.  Cooked, these mushrooms are an important source of fiber, protein, vitamins and other essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy lifestyle.  100g (@ 1 cup) of Oyster mushrooms has only 43 calories, 0g of fat, 2.3g of fiber and 3g of protein.

The following describes some of the important nutrition value these mushrooms provide and their contribution to a healthy heart:

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – Oyster mushrooms have five times the amount of this vitamin compared to most vegetables. Niacin helps metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins and repairs damaged DNA.  This vitamin boosts memory, improves skin conditions, helps with arthritis and assists in maintaining good blood circulation.  Niacin contributes to heart health by lowering “bad” cholesterol and raising “good” cholesterol levels.
  • Vitamin D – One cup of Oyster mushrooms provides 103 IU (International units) of Vitamin D, about 17% of the recommended daily allowance. Mushrooms are one of the only food sources that produce its own Vitamin D (see Terrafunga blog Mushrooms: Natural source of Vitamin D).  Our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium, regulate the genes that influence growth and boost our immune system. Vitamin D contributes to heart health by lowering blood pressure.
  • Antioxidants – Oyster mushrooms are one of the few natural sources of ergothioneine, an amino acid that lowers systemic inflammation. The benefits of ergothioneine include improved cognitive function, eye health, immune modulation, lung, skin and reproductive health. 3 oz. of Oyster mushrooms provides 13mg of ergothioneine.  Antioxidants contribute to heart health by preventing the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1) – Improves energy by converting carbohydrates into glucose. It helps the body withstand stressful situations, boost the immune system and maintain a healthy nervous system. Thiamine contributes to heart health by increasing the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that ensures proper cardiac function.
  • Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) – Helps in the production of neurotransmitters, supports the immune system, maintains lymph node health and improves carpel tunnel syndrome, anemia, muscular sclerosis and influenza. In addition Vitamin B6 is helpful for those suffering from premenstrual syndrome, arthritis and depression.  Pyridoxine contributes to heart health by lowering the levels of homocysteine in the blood thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Dietary Fiber – Fiber stimulates digestion, relieves indigestion and constipation. In addition, fiber nurtures the lining of the colon and aids in the absorption of glucose.  Studies have shown that there is a correlation between low fiber diets and heart disease and that dietary fiber may help reduce the risk factors for strokes such as high blood pressure, high blood levels of “bad” cholesterol.  The American Heart Association recommends an intake of 25g of fiber daily and a cup of Oyster provides 9% of that total.   Dietary fiber contributes to heart health by lowering the risk of first time strokes.
  • Potassium – This mineral is important in maintaining water balance in the body as well as strong bones, build protein and enhance muscle strength. Potassium helps with anxiety and stress as well as kidney and heart disorders. The recommended daily value for potassium is 3.5g and 1 cup of Oyster mushrooms provides 12% of the daily intake.  Potassium contributes to heart health by lowering blood pressure, lowering “bad” cholesterol and regulating proper heart rhythm.
  • Copper – Copper is essential to our bodies as it maintains the health of connective tissues, increases our energy, helps metabolize iron and increases the production of red blood cells. In addition, copper supports good eye and hair health, reduces symptoms of arthritis and helps prevent premature aging.  Copper contributes to heart health by reducing “bad” cholesterol production and influences the functioning of the heart and arteries.

Oyster mushrooms offer many more nutritional benefits to maintain good health.  We focused on nutrients that specifically enhance cardiovascular health given that it is Heart Health month. To get you started, we have posted a great good-for-heart recipe: Roasted Oyster Mushrooms and Red Quinoa Salad.  Enjoy!


Sources: Mycomedicinals, Paul Stamets (2002), National Institute of Health, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov, heart.org, nutritiondata.self.com, healthyeating.sfgate.com, diethealthclub.com, healthiestfoods.com, organicfacts.net

Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.

Mushrooms: Natural Source of Vitamin D

During the winter, many of us living in Northern climes have shorterMaitake7 days and less exposure to sunlight meaning a decreased ability to manufacture our own Vitamin D.  Vitamin D plays an important role in our well-being; essential for healthy bone growth, neuromuscular and immune functions, as well as reduction of inflammations and prevention of respiratory infections.

Vitamin D is synthesized in our bodies when skin is exposed to UV rays from sunlight, though age, the amount of time spent in the sun, melanin levels in the skin and sunscreen application can affect absorption levels.  Vitamin D can also be obtained by consuming certain foods rich in the vitamin, though the natural options are limited to oily fish, beef liver, eggs and fortunately mushrooms.  There are also fortified foods that can be consumed such as milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt and margarine as well as dietary supplements.  Mushrooms are the only produce that contain vitamin D naturally and thus should become of every diet.

The following is an abbreviated list comparing the amount of Vitamin D in food we consume (measured in International Units (IU))demonstrating the important levels mushrooms contain.  Fruits and vegetable are not featured in this chart since none contain vitamin D and though fortified, ready-to-eat cereals do contain vitamin D, they are high in sugar and low in nutritional value and hence were not included. The entire list can be viewed on the USDA website.

Maitake 1123
Chanterelle 212
Morel 206
Shiitake 154
Oyster 22
Portobello, exposed to UV light 524
Sockeye salmon 526
Mackerel 457
Swordfish 666
Tuna fish, canned, in oil 269
Pork spare ribs 104
Bacon, reduced sodium 42
Salami, dried 62
Beef bologna 32
Milk, whole, fortified 420
Yogurt, fortified 52
Egg, fried 88
Margarine, fortified 429
American cheese, fortified 301

 *extracted from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference release 27

Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium essential for healthy bone growth preventing them from becoming brittle, thin and/or misshapen.  Lack of Vitamin D can cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults, two conditions that can be prevented.  Additionally, studies suggest that Vitamin D may affect cancer risk.  Though still inconclusive, there is strong evidence that vitamin D has protective effects on certain cancers including breast and prostate, though the most promising results came from research involving patients with colon cancer.  More recently, there has been evidence that Vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of Type 1 and 2 diabetes as well as MS and hypertension.  Lastly, a study conducted at Cambridge University concluded that increased Vitamin D in the body increased the preventive effect against influenza by boosting the bodies’ immune levels.  NB Excessive levels of vitamin D can also be harmful to the body.

People at greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency include growing children, darker skinned individuals, overweight persons and the elderly.  Children need calcium for bone development and tend to be protected against direct exposure to sunlight, dark skin contains more melanin which is less effective in producing vitamin D from sunlight, obese individuals sequester vitamin D in fat preventing its release into other parts of the body and the elderly have skin that doesn’t synthesize efficiently and are inclined to stay indoors more often.

Vitamin D deficiency can be reversed by consuming foods rich in this nutrient.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans put forth by the federal government recommend that nutrients should be obtained from foods.  Although dietary supplements are valuable, vitamins obtained from natural foods have added health benefits that can help the body function properly and boost the immune system.  Mushrooms that naturally produce vitamin D should become part of every diet.


Sources: Journal of Virology2008 –  review on The Epidemiology of influenza, National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin D Facts sheet for professionals, Facts sheet for consumers, USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference release 27, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

Terrafunga does not offer medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice from a licensed physician or other qualified health care professional and not rely on information they may gather from secondary sources such as the internet.