Medicinal mushrooms have a long tradition in Japan, China and Korea. A lot of scientific knowledge about the effects of mushrooms therefore comes from the Far East. For example, in 2010, the School of Health Sciences, in the Japanese prefecture of Aichi, published the results of a study in which agaritin, a substance found in mushrooms, was shown to have an antitumor effect.
In the laboratory, it had been determined that the aqueous extract from a type of mushroom, the Brazilian Egerling, was able to effectively combat leukemia cells. In order to find out which substance in the extract was responsible for the effect, they were broken down in a liquid chromatograph and found the agaritin. Agaritin is a water-soluble hydrazine compound that is found in many types of mushrooms, including cultivated mushrooms.
Until now, the polysaccharides (homo- and heteropolysaccharides) with their high proportion of beta-glucans were considered to be the fungi’s most effective weapon for strengthening the human body’s immune system. The experiments presented now also draw attention to agaritin, which in various concentrations prevented the proliferation of numerous different leukemia cell lines.
At the same time, it was observed that even at the highest concentration tested, it had no effect whatsoever on healthy lymphatic cells. According to the research group, the agaritin itself had no genotoxic or carcinogenic effects whatsoever.
Two years earlier, another study had investigated the possible chronic toxicity and cancer promotion of ingredients in the almond fungus (Agaricus blazei Murill), another type of mushroom. At the Laboratory of Molecular Toxicology, Korea Food and Drug Administration, Seoul, South-Korea (Lee et al. 2008), rats were fed a diet containing up to 25,000 ppm (parts per million) for two years. of the almond mushroom contained. T
he study revealed no significant change in body weight, weight gain, various parameters of blood or serum chemistry, and absolute or relative organ gain in the control or study group. Mortality in the male study group treated with the fungus was significantly lower than that of the control group.
Ten years earlier, scientists at the Department of Pathology, Fujita Health University School of Medicine, Aichi, (Matsumoto et al. 1991) had investigated whether long-term consumption of large amounts of button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) had health effects on rats.
Female Charles River Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a diet containing 30% cultivated mushrooms in dry powder form for 500 days. A control group was fed without the addition of cultivated mushrooms. There were no significant differences in tumor incidence between the study and control groups. The long-term study could not find any carcinogenic effects of the cultivated mushroom.
These data support the statement of a recently published scientific review of various studies with agaritin: There is no scientifically sound evidence from animal studies or human studies to establish a link between mushroom consumption and carcinogenicity.