Long Life

The facts at a glance

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Live long and healthy
People following the traditional Mediterranean or Japanese diet live longest and mushrooms feature in both diets.

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Nutrients and antioxidants
Mushrooms have a range of essential nutrients and the antioxidant mineral selenium – key elements for good health.

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Unique Antioxidants
Mushrooms have many antioxidants including one unique antioxidant called ergothioneine, which is believed to very important to human health.

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Balanced diet
The unique content of mushrooms provides a clear role in a balanced healthy diet for long life.

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Antioxidants in mushrooms

For a long time, scientists have appreciated the antioxidant effect of fresh produce such as vegetables and fruit. Eating plenty of high antioxidant foods seems to have a role in protecting you from future disease.

Antioxidants are produced by the body and found in food. They are natural compounds that help neutralise the free radicals produced by the body. Free radicals are also quite natural, although they tend to cause damage to all parts of the body over time, hence speeding up the ageing process. For example, free radicals can damage the DNA found in the nuclei of body cells. When DNA becomes damaged, then antioxidants within the body work to correct the damage before it becomes a cancerous cell.

If the antioxidants made by the body get overwhelmed then the antioxidants in food provide a very useful helping hand to protect the body from free radicals. Mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants, as confirmed by laboratory analysis. In one study of 30 common vegetables, mushrooms were placed in the top five highest antioxidant levels when compared to vegetables (Pellegrini 2003; Savoie 2008).

Not commonly appreciated is that even the unique carbohydrates in mushrooms have antioxidant properties (He 2012).

Ergothioneine

Mushrooms are very high in the powerful antioxidant ergothioneine, in amounts similar to that found in animal foods (Ey 2007). Ergothioneine is found in very few vegetables or fruit. The body does not make ergothioneine so it can only be obtained from the diet.

An analysis of a range of foods confirmed that ergothioneine was in mushrooms, meats (especially liver and kidney), egg yolk, oat bran, wheat germ and some beans and onion. It was not found in other vegetables or fruit (Ey 2007).

A study determining the ergothioneine levels in different mushrooms found that both white and brown button mushrooms were rich in ergothioneine and that the levels did not diminish during cooking (Dubost 2006). The ergothioneine in mushrooms is bioavailable meaning that it can be easily absorbed by the body (Weigand-Heller 2011).

Ergothioneine appears to protect blood cells, especially monocytes and red blood cells that transport nutrients and oxygen to body cells (Martin 2010). It also protects your artery lining from atherosclerosis (fatty deposits).

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Is ergothioneine a new vitamin?

Low levels of ergothioneine in the body trigger the oxidation (damage) of DNA and proteins. For this reason it has been suggested that ergothioneine should really be classified as a vitamin because it is essential to our health (Paul 2010). Ergothioneine levels do not decrease with cooking, so you can get ergothioneine through both raw and cooked mushrooms, nor does it decrease with sunlight or UV light exposure so the levels are retained with high vitamin D mushrooms (Sapozhnikova 2014).

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Ergothioneine has its own blood transporter

Scientists were surprised to find an ergothioneine transporter protein in the blood (Gründemann 2005). Transporter proteins only exist in the blood if they have a specific role. For example, haemoglobin is a transporter protein for carrying oxygen to cells. To find one for ergothioneine gives further support of the importance of ergothioniene for human health.

Mushrooms are also particularly high in phenolic compounds that have been long recognised for their antioxidant capabilities.

A serve of mushrooms provides about a quarter of an adult’s requirements of selenium, an antioxidant mineral.

Put all the news together and it makes mushrooms one of the highest antioxidant foods on the market. It is good sense that mushrooms should regularly feature on your healthy eating menu. Please view the other fact sheets for a more detailed understanding of the health benefits of mushrooms.

References

  • Dubost NJ, Beelman RB, Peterson D, Royse DJ. Identification and quantification of ergothioneine in cultivated mushrooms by liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy. Int Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 2006; 8: 215-222
  • Ey J, Schömig E, Taubert D. Dietary sources and antioxidant effects of ergothioneine. J Agricultural & Food Chemistry 2007; 55: 6466-6474
  • Gründemann D, Harlfinger S, Golz S, Geerts A, Lazar A, Berkels R, Jung N, Rubbert A, Schömig E. Discovery of the ergothioneine transporter. Proc National Academy of Sciences 2005; 102: 5256-5261
  • He JZ, Ru QM, Dong DD, Sun PL. Chemical characteristics and antioxidant properties of crude water soluble polysaccharides from four common edible mushrooms. Molecules 2012; 17: 4373-4387
  • Martin KR. The bioactive agent ergothioneine, a key component of dietary mushrooms, inhibits monocyte binding to endothelial cells characteristic of early cardiovascular disease. Journal of Medicinal Food 2010; 13 (6): 1340-1346
  • Paul BD, Snyder SH. The unusual amino acid L-ergothioneine is a physiologic cytoprotectant. Cell Death & Differentiation 2010; 17: 1134-1140
  • Pellegrini N, Serafini M, Colombi B, Del Rio D, Salvatore S, Bianchi M, Brighenti F. Total antioxidant capacity of plant foods, beverages and oils consumed in Italy assessed by three different in vitro assays. J Nutrition 2003; 133: 2812-2819
  • Sapozhnikova Y, Byrdwell WC, Lobato A, Romig B. Effects of UV-B radiation levels on concentrations of phytosterol, ergothioneine, and polyphenolic compounds in mushroom powders used as dietary supplements. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry 2014; March DOI: 10.1021/jf403852k
  • Savoie JM, Minvielle N, Largeteau ML. Radical-scavenging properties of extracts from the white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus. J of the Science of Food & Agriculture 2008; 88: 970-975
  • Weigand-Heller AJ, Kris-Etherton PM, Beelman RB. The bioavailability or ergothioneine from mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and the acute effects on antioxidant capacity and biomarkers of inflammation. Preventive Medicine 2012; 54 (suppl): S75-S78