Research Roundup 5 - Shitake

Shitake mushroom - food and immune booster

   Shitake mushrooms can be eaten dried or fresh. The dried form can be crumbled into soup or over a salad. They are a good source of B vitamins, selenium, and copper, as well as vitamin D2. These muchrooms have been found to have a lot of benefit for the immune system, as well as being a source of vitamin D. They have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Even in a review study that cited no benefit in treating diseases, they noted that Shitake mushrooms contain powerful chemicals that can affect the immune system and the neurological system, and recommend further study. Many studies have shown their ability to increase number and effectiveness of immune cells. This includes people whose immune system was depressed from chemotherapy. One study showed that it increases activity of macrophages from bone marrow, which had been depressed by one form of chemotherapy. Another study showed that daily consumption of Shitake mushroom improved immunity in healthy individuals, too. It increased numbers of T cells, including Natural Killer cells, and at the same time decreased inflammatory markers. Chronic inflammation in general increases as animals and people age, and high levels of inflammation, measured by high levels of inflammatory markers, are associated with increased incidence of cancer as well as other chronic disease.

One type of chemical known as a polysaccharide decreases activity of cells which suppress the immune system. These cells are part of the normal checks and balances of the immune system, and having too few of them can cause autoimmune disease, when the body's immune system goes crazy, attacking the rest of the body. But Shitake mushrooms don't go that far - they just get these cells back under control.

Both fresh and dried mushrooms have these effects. You know those dried mushrooms in the back of your cupboard that you forgot about? A study showed that dried mushrooms that were 1 1/2 years old lost about 1/3 of their vitamin D content. But you can get that back, simply by exposing the dried mushrooms to sunlight or to ultraviolet light.

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