A type of fibre in mushrooms can naturally help to lower blood cholesterol in a similar manner to statin medication.
The facts at a glance
Mushrooms have a statin-like effect
About 22,500 people die each year in Australia with heart disease. That’s one death every 24 minutes. The key aspects to a healthy heart are to not smoke, be active, have a healthy weight and eat a wholesome diet. You know that healthy eating includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, eggs, lean meat and dairy. Since 2010, we have learned a lot in how mushrooms play a role in keeping your heart healthy.
Researchers at the University of Western Sydney showed that mushrooms lowered blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels while raising the good HDL cholesterol, in the laboratory (Jeong 2010). They thought the effect was possibly due to the influence of chitin and the glucans in mushrooms.
Mushrooms have chitin and glucans as part of their cell walls (Wu 2004; Dikeman 2005). Cellulose is normally the main polysaccharide in plant cells walls, but chitin plays a similar role in the button mushroom.
A review of the research then stated: “Mushroom intake clearly has a cholesterol-lowering effect by different mechanisms such as decreasing VLDL-cholesterol, improving lipid metabolism, inhibiting the action of HMG-CoA reductase, and consequently preventing the development of atherosclerosis” (Guillamón 2010). HMG-CoA Reductase is the same enzyme targeted by statin medication, the medication designed to lower high blood cholesterol levels.
Then a Spanish research group also found that mushrooms have compounds that lower blood cholesterol in a similar way to statins (Gil-Ramírez 2013). Although mushrooms contain natural statins, the authors believe that the statin-like activity can be attributed to the glucans in mushrooms, not the statins. Glucans are likely to be impeding HMG-CoA Reductase through another mechanism, possibly by binding to its catalytic centre to stop the enzymic reaction.
Simply put, the research shows that eating mushrooms can help to lower the bad cholesterol in the blood, something that can importantly help stop narrowing of the arteries.
Mushrooms & blood lipids
In January 2013, the Food Standards Code was amended with regards to health claims. In Code 1.2.7 it states that: “Increased intake of fruit and vegetables reduces risk of coronary heart disease”. This was based on studies of fruit and vegetable consumption which, because people eat mushrooms as a vegetable, included mushrooms too. So, eat mushrooms as one of your five vegetables and help keep heart disease at bay.
Fibre in mushrooms
A serve of mushrooms provides around 1.5g of fibre, which is about 5-6% of the daily fibre needs of an adult. When mushrooms are cooked and lose some water, the level of fibre rises to 2.7g per 100g serve, around 10% of daily fibre needs.
The fibre in mushrooms is mainly insoluble, the type of fibre that helps to keep bowels regular. Around 15% of the total dietary fibre in mushrooms is resistant starch type 1 (Dikeman 2005), which can act as a prebiotic by resisting digestion to become food for the healthy bacteria residing in the large intestine.
Mushrooms are virtually fat-free
There is virtually no fat in mushrooms. Like plant foods, they are also cholesterol-free. They are low in kilojoules and sodium, while providing potassium. Put all that together with its potentially cholesterol-lowering ability and you have a very tasty food that is looking after your heart.