Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mushrooms and Vitamin D

Source: Mushrooms Canada

Lately there has been alot of buzz around the issue of Mushrooms and Vitamin D. To clear up some of the questions you all might have, here is the official statement from Mushrooms Canada.

"Mushrooms and Vitamin D: A Status Report
Vitamin D Vitamin D has become the health story of the year, largely because a U.S. study* indicated that supplemental Vitamin D cuts the risk of cancer by 60 percent. Based on that evidence, the Canadian Cancer Society recommended that light-skin Canadians should obtain 1000 IU (International Units) per day during fall and winter, and dark-skin Canadians should obtain 1000 IU year-round.

Since 1920, it has been known that the main role of Vitamin D is to work with Calcium and Phosphorus to build bones strong. Recent findings suggest that Vitamin D also:

  • helps to prevent bone fractures
  • reduces the risk of diabetes in young people
  • protects against heart disease
  • reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis
  • improves lung function
The best source of Vitamin D for humans is sunlight. Subcutaneous glands in the skin use sunlight to form Pre-vitamin D which is converted to Vitamin D by the liver and kidneys. But, other factors influence our exposure to sunlight, such as distance from the equator, body coverings and age. Skin colour also affects the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. On a bright summer day, a fair-skinned person needs less than 30 minutes to make the daily requirement of Vitamin D. A dark-skinned person may need two to three hours. Winter light, in most parts of Canada, is ineffective for Vitamin D production, and vitamin D production decreases with age.

Besides sunlight, there are only a few natural sources of Vitamin D, and all of them are seafood or animal origin, such as eggs, margarine, butter, beef and chicken livers. Sardines, Mackerel, Cod, Salmon and Shrimp are good sources. Milk, some juices and breakfast cereals may be fortified at low levels, and multi-vitamin pills may contain up to 400 IU. D2 is the form found in foods and supplements, D3 is the form made by the skin.

Canadians in general, are considered to be at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, especially those with dark skin and/or vegetarian. Health Canada recommends a minimum of 200 IU (5 mcg.) from birth to 50 years; 400 IU (10 mcg.) from 51 to 70 years and 600 IU (15 mcg.) over 70 years of age.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA has been seeking a natural, non-animal food, rich in Vitamin D. That led them to mushrooms. It has been demonstrated that when white button mushrooms are exposed to Ultraviolet B radiation, for a short period of time, the level of Vitamin D increases to levels many times the minimum daily requirement, i.e. 10 mcg. Normally, a serving** of white button mushrooms contains 18 IU (0.45 mcg.). Treated mushrooms contain over 80 mcg.***

Mushrooms show great promise as a natural, non-animal source of Vitamin D. That being the case, there are some hurdles to overcome before Super-D Mushrooms are featured in the produce section of supermarkets. The hurdles involve not only production-line technology and shelf-life, but also bio-availability of the vitamin. These hurdles are being addressed in Canada, the USA and Australia.

Hurdle #1. Commercialization
In order to incorporate a UV treatment system into a commercial mushroom farm, some technical questions must be answered. For example:

  • Where is the best location for UV-treatment, in the growing rooms (pre-harvest) or in the packing room (post-harvest)?
  • What is the best source of UV light, distance from the mushrooms and duration of exposure?
  • What is the shelf life of treated mushrooms?
  • Do white mushrooms discolour? How much?
  • Are brown mushrooms better?
  • Is there an impact on food safety and/or microbiology?
  • Does the level of Vitamin D decrease with time?
The Australian Mushroom Growers Association (AMGA) has initiated a study of intermittent UV-light exposure in a growing room, from pinning to harvest. D2 will be measured in the mushrooms, 4 and 8 days post-harvest. The objective is to license a D2 process for the growers. In the USA, the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA is studying the time and dosage of UVB light treatment up to 4 days post-harvest and D2 degradation during storage. In Canada, Mushrooms Canada is sponsoring research at the Guelph Food Technology Center at the University of Guelph, Ontario, to determine the appropriate UVB light dosage to achieve 100% RDA levels (400 IU) in fresh, white and brown mushrooms. Shelf-life, discolouration and microbiology of the treated products are included.

Hurdle #2. Bio-availability.
Is the Vitamin D absorbed by humans when they eat the mushrooms? This question has not been answered. There are studies that demonstrate that the ingestion of Vitamin D supplements (likely pills) does result in increased levels of Vit. D in the blood****.

The Centre of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the FDA has commenced a study to determine if enhanced Vitamin D mushrooms will raise the Vitamin D levels in mice and rats, determining bio-availability. The experimental material, dehydrated UV-treated mushroom powder, was supplied by the Guelph Food Technology Centre and Mushrooms Canada.
In 2007, the Mushroom Council (USA) proposed a clinical-study of humans, to determine the bio-availability of vitamin D from mushrooms.

Mushrooms have the potential to become a nutraceutical or functional food. They may even be the Omega-3 egg of the produce section. We know that the Vitamin D level in mushrooms can be enhanced by simply treating them with Ultraviolet light. Mushrooms Canada will know the answers to commercialization within 6 months, but bio-availability studies will take more than 2 years."

*Lappe, J. et al., American Journal of clinical Nutrition, June 2007.
** 1 serving is equal to 100g of white button mushrooms.
***Mattila, P.H., Food Chemistry, 2002
****Holick, M. et al, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. December 2007


Niya prakash said...


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Your blog's very informative about mushrooms .


Anonymous said...

Why do mushrooms need vitamin D? If they usually grow in dimmer light and don't bother making much vitamin D, what advantage do they get from starting to make it when exposed to uv? And why don't they grow in the light to begin with?

Confused, NH

Anonymous said...

I noticed this article on Vitamin D and mushrooms ..this is from 2008 ..is there an update as to the research? Can we absorb Vitmin D from mushrooms? Is there a supply of these mushrooms high in Vitamin D available from a particular supplier?

Mike said...

Not sure where you live, anonymous, but Monterey Mushrooms has UV treated mushrooms for sale in several states here in the US.

Anonymous said...

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pure resveratrol said...

The nutrient content is one of the appetizing ingredient for soups as well.

vitamins canada said...

Wonderful blog. Not getting enough protein in the diet is rare in the developed world.

Ken D Berry MD said...

I am a Family Physician and I'll have to admit that supplementing all of my 50-plus year-old has cut into my skin-cancer treatment income...

Anonymous said...

According to NutritionData.com , only the common white mushroom lists vitamin-d. All other varieties show nothing!

Curious though, anyone know

1) Does Nutritional Yeast (as opposed to active yeast) contain any of the healthy beta-glucan?

2) I've heard you must cook mushrooms to reduce the toxic carcinogen in them. However, Do ALL mushrooms varieties contain hydrazines? Haven't found any concentration comparison chart.

I'm considering raw Shiitake on salads, since not of fan of busting out the frying pan just to make a salad!


Anonymous said...

According to,

mushrooms are high in purines (like asparagus, spinach, etc).. which can be bad for gout/Alzheimers .


paul said...

Thanks for sharing that information. Vitamin D and mushrooms are really good for our health. Always include them in your diet.

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Susan said...

Regarding the doctors post on D supplementation reducing his income. I too have seen this and its absolutely awful. There is a small ( thankfully ) movement to spread some sort of msg. That increased vitamin intake, particularly D3, C, and E will reduce incidence of disease. What about all of the hospitals and Physicians this will effect? They hVe made a huge investment to obtain their degree. And then there are the drug companies, which also invest billions in research. There was a gentlemen the other day that revealed that raw garlic ( in large doses taken for 3-6 months ) would cure drug resistant TB. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw his post. Sure it's true but that would rob drug companies. It's just wrong. Stop all this vitamin nonsense. Eat whatever you want. And consult your doctor.

Botox Chatsworth said...

I will point out that different varieties of mushrooms have different vitamin D content. According to an excerpt from the USDA National Nutrient Database, Shitake, raw mushrooms contain 15 IU of vitamin D per serving of 84 g, whereas maitake, raw mushrooms contain 943 IU of vitamin D for the same amount. In addition, the physical condition: raw, dried, salted, unsalted, or stir-fried also has a significant effect on the concentration of vitamin D. For example, portabella, raw mushrooms have 8 IU of vitamin D per serving of 84 g, have 12 IU of vitamin D when grilled, and 493 IU of vitamin D when exposed to UV light and then grilled.

I would also like to add that there are many scientific and clinical studies, which have demonstrated the bioavailability of vitamin D2 contained in mushrooms to humans.

Mack Shepperson said...

It's so nice that, with all their nutritional and medicinal benefits, mushrooms are not a bitter pill to swallow. Plus, there are a lot of ways to enjoy them. =)

hotrain said...

Hi I live in the UK part time and have taken 10.000iu,s daily of vitamin D3 the sunshine vitamin for year's when I am there it's the corner stone for good health and I never see a white coat/duckor/quake/pill pushers,I love mushroom's of all kind's and enjoyed your article thank you.

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Unknown said...

Hi NH, mushrooms will need to be treated with ultraviolet rays to produce Vit D in order to benefit us humans, by consuming them. Because mushrooms increase their Vit D content when exposed to ultraviolet rays like the sunlight.

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