The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 11 No. 2 • March 2008

Medicinal Mushrooms at Your Supermarket
Improve Immune Function

There has been considerable research done and many papers published on the medicinal properties of various mushrooms, mostly exotic varieties. A new paper now reports enhanced immune function in C57BL/6 mice eating the common white button mushrooms, which account for 90% of all mushrooms consumed in the U.S.1

Mushroom powder was added to the base diet at levels of 2% by weight or 10% by weight. The controls received the base diet that was adjusted with additional ingredients to equalize the levels of total energy and macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fiber) in the experimental diet.

Natural killer (NK) cell activity was significantly enhanced by mushroom supplementation in a dose-dependent manner. “Similar results (data not shown) were obtained when NK activity was expressed as killing activity per given number of NK cells . . .” NK cells are specialized lymphocytes, part of the innate immune system, that spontaneously kill pathogen-infected cells and tumor cells. IFNgamma (interferon gamma) is “the most important cytokine in mediating NK activity.” IFNgamma was increased in splenocytes in the experimental mice. The study found that “Con A- and PHA-stimulated IFNgamma production and NK activity in splenocytes were significantly and positively correlated.” As the authors explain, “IFNgamma is thought to play an essential role in NK cell-mediated suppression of viral and bacterial infection and the inhibition of tumor initiation and metastasis.” (References in quote not included here.)

White button mushrooms may not be as tasty as some exotic medicinal mushrooms, but they are much less expensive, a great advantage at a time of soaring food prices.


  1. Wu et al. Dietary supplementation with white button mushrooms enhances natural killer cell activity in C57BL/6 mice. J Nutr 137:1472-7 (2007).

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