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Shiitake Mushrooms and Immunity – A Scientific Review

Shiitake, or Lentitulaedodes, is an Asian mushroom that grows mainly in Japan and China, but is widely known around the world. In addition to its excellent taste, it is known for its healing and medicinal properties. Traditional Asian medicine believes that shiitake activates the vitality of a person and helps the body defend itself against most diseases.

From boosting the immune system to fighting cancer, shiitake mushrooms are more than just a delicious delicacy. Many scientific studies have been conducted over the years to determine exactly what health benefits these fungi may offer. In this blog post, we’ll review five of the most noteworthy research studies on shiitake mushrooms and immunity to help you better understand how they can benefit your health. 

Traditional Asian medicine believes that shiitake activates the vitality of a person and helps the body defend itself against most diseases

  • Immune Function  (1) 
    This study was conducted by researchers from the University of Florida in 2003. It involved a total of 38 healthy adults who were randomly assigned to consume either 4 ounces of shiitake mushrooms daily for four weeks or no mushrooms at all. At the end of the study period, those who consumed shiitakes experienced an increase in natural killer cell activity, a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in immunity. 
  • Immunomodulatory Activity (2) 
    This study was published in 2009 by researchers from Tohoku University in Japan. In this study, mice were given doses of two different extracts from shiitake mushrooms—the fruiting body (cap and stem) extract and the mycelium extract—for three weeks. Both extracts were found to significantly enhance both innate and adaptive immune responses, suggesting that shiitakes may be useful for modulating immune function.  
  • Anticancer Activity (3) 
    This study was conducted by researchers from China’s Fujian Medical University and published in 2014. It involved testing lentinan—a compound isolated from shiitake mushrooms—on several types of tumor cells grown in laboratory dishes. The results showed that lentinan had significant anti-tumor effects on all three types of tumor cells tested, suggesting it could be useful as an anticancer agent.   
  • Supplementation for Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy (4)    
    This study was published in 2017 by researchers from Korea’s Chungbuk National University College of Medicine. It involved testing the effectiveness and safety profile of dietary supplementation with shiitake mushroom powder on 47 cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment for various types of cancer. Those who took the supplement experienced significant improvements in quality of life compared to those who did not take it, suggesting that consuming shiitakes during chemotherapy may be beneficial for cancer patients.  
  • Health Benefits of Edible Wild Mushrooms (5)   
    This review article was published by researchers from India’s Amity Institute Of Molecular Medicine & Stem Cell Research in 2018. It reviewed several studies exploring the potential health benefits associated with consuming edible wild mushrooms like shiitakes, including their ability to boost immunity, reduce inflammation, fight cancerous cells, lower cholesterol levels, and improve overall health outcomes. 

All five studies demonstrate that there is strong evidence to suggest that consuming shiitake mushrooms can have positive effects on immunity as well as other aspects related to our health such as reducing inflammation, fighting cancer cells and lowering cholesterol levels — making them one powerful superfood! If you’re looking for ways to naturally boost your immune system this winter season then adding shiitake to your diet could be just what you need! 

References:  

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14530018
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2798937/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4010760/
  4. https://www..ncbi..nlm..nih..gov/pmc/articles/PMC5470740/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov//pmc//articles//PMC6047267/
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