Thursday, July 12, 2007

Research finds that fresh mushrooms contain a substantial amount of vitamin D

"Research finds that fresh mushrooms contain a substantial amount of vitamin D

Published: Monday, July 9, 2007 1:05 PM ET

Canadian Press: JUDY CREIGHTON

(CP) - Vitamin D, which is being used as a weapon in the fight against everything from cancer to arthritis and osteoporosis, can also be found in substantial quantities in fresh mushrooms, says a spokesman for the industry.

This could be good news for those who are deficient in vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin.

In June, a four-year clinical trial involving 1,200 women found those taking the vitamin had about 60 per cent reduction in cancer incidence.

Just after the news was released, the Canadian Cancer Society recommended a specific amount of vitamin D supplementation for Canadians to consider taking. It suggested adults living in Canada should consider taking 1,000 international units of vitamin D a day during the fall and winter.

William Stevens, executive vice-president of Mushrooms Canada, based in Guelph, Ont., says that in some preliminary studies in the United States in which mushrooms were exposed to ultraviolet radiation the vitamin D contained in them "just skyrocketed and exceeded by 687 times the daily requirement for the vitamin."

"Two years ago the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) told the mushroom industry both in Canada and the U.S. that if it would sponsor research into vitamin D they would actively pursue it," he says. "We in Canada said we would supply the raw materials for the research."

As a result, Stevens is working with the Guelph Food Technology Centre. There, fresh mushrooms are being exposed to ultraviolet radiation under controlled conditions. Then they are freeze-dried and shipped to the FDA where they are subjected to animal studies as a component of their research.

In the past, the only important research on the nutrient value of mushrooms has taken place in the United States, he says.

"There is a very active school at Pennsylvania State University which is dealing with mushrooms from growing right through to marketing," Stevens says, "because half of the mushrooms grown in North America are grown in one county in Pennsylvania, so the university always has had an inherent interest."

He suggests that the intense focus on specialty mushrooms in particular and information coming out of Asia, "where they always felt that mushrooms had medicinal and therapeutic properties, has renewed interest in any benefits mushrooms contain."

For example, a 2006 study conducted at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., found that daily consumption of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of mushrooms would help suppress breast tumour growth in women. However, the authors added that much more research, including human studies, needs to be done before any specific recommendations can be made.

Results from the Physicians' Health Study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, Mass., noted that higher levels of selenium contained in mushrooms may slow the progression of prostate cancer tumours.

"As well, there are quite a few studies taking place on immunity factors, such as pain relief, tumours and arthritis," says Stevens, noting that because of their high vitamin D content mushrooms are being used in the research.

Other foods containing vitamin D include fortified milk, fatty fish (cod liver oil, mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna), fortified orange juice and cereals, egg yolks and some cheeses.

But a warning: consuming amounts greater than 2,000 IU a day could cause such problems as nausea, vomiting, poor appetite and other conditions; check the label on multivitamins to make sure that you do not exceed this amount.

Mushrooms also contain significant amounts of B vitamins, are low in calories and fat, a valuable source of fibre and are cholesterol-and carbohydrate-free.
For more information on related topics, visit
Judy Creighton welcomes letters at 9 Kinnell St., Hamilton, Ont., L8R 2J8, but cannot promise to answer all correspondence personally. She can also be reached by e-mail at"

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