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  • Shiitake Mushroom Supplements: Are they all they’re cracked up to be?

    The supplement industry is rife with misinformation. Every way you turn there is a flashy new supplement staring you in the face, promising to do everything from make you jacked to cure the common cold.

    The kicker?

    Some are MUCH more effective than others.

    With this in mind, there is reason to believe that when it comes to general health and function, those supplements derived from natural compounds are going to offer you the most bang for your buck.

    These supplements tend to be full of the natural vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and thrive. Moreover, some even contain unique antioxidants and plant nutrients that can improve your ability to function.

    And one of the most impressive may be Shiitake Mushrooms.

    What are Shiitake Mushrooms?

    Shiitake mushrooms have been a staple in eastern medicinal practices for centuries, where they were purported to improve health, stave off disease, and promote longevity and function. Even in modern day, they are considered to be a superfood in Japan and China, where they are used regularly as both a common cooking ingredient and as a medical remedy.

    With this in mind, Shiitake is one of the most popular edible mushrooms on the planet, consumed in both food and supplement form.

    In western medicine, Shiitake mushrooms have been garnering some attention of late, where researchers have been exploring their ability to help treat a variety of diseases, including cancer, chronic infections, and cardiovascular disease [1].

    Shiitake Mushroom Benefits

    The key reason that shiitake mushrooms are believed to be so beneficial to health is because they are full to the brim of unique types of bioactive compounds known as polysaccharides, sterols, and terpenoids.

    These unique compounds enhance your body's immune response and reduce inflammation, while simultaneously acting as potent antioxidants [1].

    With this in mind, there is evidence to suggest that Shiitake mushroom supplements can have some serious benefits for your health and function.

    1.    Improved Immune System Function

    Arguably the biggest benefit that comes from Shiitake mushrooms relates to their ability to boost the function of your immune system.

    As I alluded to above, Shiitake mushrooms contain several unique compounds that interact with your body. Two of these compounds that are of particular interest are known as “lentinan” and “beta-glucans” which collectively support your immune system.

    In fact, research has shown that people who supplement with 5-10 grams of Shiitake mushrooms daily see large improvements in the activity of their white blood cells, in conjunction with enhanced gut immunity [2].

    As a result, Shiitake mushrooms appear to offer the perfect option to stave off illness and keep you training hard year round.

    2.    Enhanced Cardiovascular Health

    In conjunction with their ability to boost immune health, a large number of the compounds found in Shiitake mushrooms also have the ability to improve the health of your cardiovascular system.

    Three of these compounds in particular (Eritadenine, Sterols, and Betal Glucans) act to inhibit the production of cholesterol, block the absorption of cholesterol in your gut, and lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood -- all of which are integral to keeping your heart healthy and staving off cardiovascular disease.

    Amazingly, one recent study in rats demonstrated that, even when consuming a super high fat diet, shiitake mushroom supplements can inhibit plaque build up on the walls of arteries, while also lowering blood pressure and cholesterol [3].

    Although these results still need to be replicated in humans, it suggests that shiitake mushroom supplements will keep you jacked and training well into your old age.

    3.    Better Oral Health

    Most of you train in the gym so you look better, but there is more to looking nice than simply being jacked (although that is a large part of it…).

    Yep, I am talking about your smile -- and nothing says “nice smile” like good oral health.

    In all seriousness, the compounds found within Shiitake mushrooms have been demonstrated to inhibit the growth of the nasty bacteria that leads to gum inflammation and periodontitis [4]. Moreover, research has also indicated that shiitake could prevent the formation of plaque by protecting the enamel surface of your teeth [5].

    Did someone say aesthetic?

    4.    Potential Anti-Cancer Effects

    Finally, some of the compounds in Shiitake may also have a preventative effect on cancer.

    Building on what was discussed above, Lentinan has been shown to help prevent the formation of cancerous tumors by enhancing the function of your immune system [6]. Hell, it has even been shown to slow the growth of leukemia cells [7].

    While most of this research has been conducted in lab based cell studies, the results have been promising enough for eastern medical professionals to recommend its consumption alongside chemotherapy during cancer treatment.

    Again, while this may not make you any bigger, it could keep you training well into your golden years -- which is a pretty big deal if you ask me.

    Take Home Message

    Shiitake Mushrooms really are a superfood.

    With the ability to increase immune system function, enhance oral health, prevent heart disease, and even reduce your risk of cancer, they are a great option if you are looking to boost your health and longevity in the iron game.

    And really, isn't that what we all want? To be jacked into our nineties?

     

    References

    1. Finimundy, Tiane Cristine, et al. "A review on general nutritional compounds and pharmacological properties of the Lentinula edodes mushroom." Food and Nutrition Sciences 2014 (2014).
    2. Dai, Xiaoshuang, et al. "Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: A randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34.6 (2015): 478-487.
    3. Yang, Hyun, et al. "Lentinus edodes promotes fat removal in hypercholesterolemic mice." Experimental and therapeutic medicine 6.6 (2013): 1409-1413.
    4. Ciric, Lena, et al. "In vitro assessment of shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) extract for its antigingivitis activity." Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2011 (2011).
    5. Avinash, J., et al. "The unexplored anticaries potential of shiitake mushroom." Pharmacognosy reviews 10.20 (2016): 100.
    6. Meng, Xin, Hebin Liang, and Lixin Luo. "Antitumor polysaccharides from mushrooms: a review on the structural characteristics, antitumor mechanisms and immunomodulating activities." Carbohydrate research 424 (2016): 30-41.
    7. Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. "Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review." 3 Biotech 2.1 (2012): 1-15.
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