Japanese researchers in conjunction with the Yale School of Medicine have found the mushroom extract, AHCC, can strengthen the immune system and fight the onset of cancer among over-50s.
AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) is an oligosaccharide that is extracted from several mushroom species and has been recommended to the elderly by Japanese health professionals since 1987, according to Maypro, a New York-based supplier of AHCC.
It is one of the leading immune-enhancing supplements in Japan and is manufactured by companies such as Amino Up Chemical Company.
The market there is estimated to be worth more than €200 million. However, the supplement is still establishing itself in European and North American markets.
The researchers measured the production of two cytokines – Interferon (IFN-y) and Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-a) – for 30 and 60 days.
These cytokines are produced by white blood cells and used by the body to prevent the growth of abnormal and cancerous cells.
The study found that the production of IFN-y and TNF-a increased within four weeks of taking the recommended of AHCC and continued to boost the immune system for at least four weeks after AHCC consumption stopped.
The study results were presented at the 16th International AHCC Symposium in Sapporo, Japan, last month to more than 300 medical professionals and academics.
At the Symposium a keynote presentation from Professor Emeritus Masuo Hosokawa of Hokkaido University explored the value of AHCC in cancer therapy, and in particular reducing the side-effects of chemotherapy.
Another keynorte speaker, Professor Emeritus Yasuo Kamiyama of Kensai Medical University investigated how AHCC can work as a complementary medicine to pharmaceuticals in post-operative cancer patients as well as cancer sufferers who develop complications.
“AHCC continues to demonstrate its essential role for healthy immune function,” said Fred Pescatore, MD, of the Center for Integrative and Complementary Medicine, and medical director at the US AHCC Research Association in response to research presented at this year’s symposium.
AHCC has been subject to more than 300 clinical studies, most of which have been conducted in Japan.
Another mushroom, the shiitake, has had an application submitted to the UK Food Standards Agency for a lentinan extract marketed by Danish firm, GlycaNova.
It is seeking "substantial equivalence" for its ingredient as it argues it is similar to existing offerings on-market, and therefore should be deemed safe.
GlycaNova originally submitted an application under the Novel Foods regulation's simplified procedures in 2006 but the evidence was not deemed substantial enough and so it resubmitted in February this year with additional safety data.
GlycaNova's Lentinex ingredient, a beta-glucan, is produced by fermenting the shiitake mushroom.
Lentinan is found in various foods including legumes, cereals, tubers, fruits and mushrooms such as shiitake (Lentinus edodes).
It is indigenous to Asia climates and is usually found growing on fallen deciduous trees and is known to boost the immune system.
Whole shiitake mushrooms have become popular in Europe and are widely available in retail outlets such as supermarkets and health food stores.