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Delicious Living

Burn It Up

Burn It Up
Learn how to rev up your metabolism and keep off extra weight

By Catherine Monahan

Cold-weather months signal nature's most austere time of year, though the sparseness doesn't stop many of us from indulging in more food and less exercise. Winter celebrations often include an unfortunate tradition of post-holiday weight gain. But there's hope: This seasonal pattern springs more from bad habits than from deep-down biological cues. Losing the extra weight is basic. It comes down to understanding metabolism, your body's natural weight-loss aid.

Metabolism is energy management. It's the thousands of chemical reactions within a cell that turn food into fuel. Picking up where digestion leaves off, metabolism converts complex nutrient molecules into simpler forms and frees valuable energy in the process. The power released by breaking down sugar glucose into water and carbon dioxide contracts muscle cells, moves chromosomes and pumps chemicals across cell membranes.

Calories are the currency of metabolism, and how quickly cells convert food into these units of energy is called the metabolic rate. The metabolic rate is influenced, in part, by the number of calories you burn while resting to power such tasks as breathing, heartbeat and brain activity. This basal metabolic rate (BMR) can account for more than half of the calories you burn each day. How you burn the other half is largely up to you.

How Fast Can You Go?
Your metabolic rate is regulated by thyroid hormones that signal cells to work harder and organs to run faster according to the body's energy needs. How cells respond is somewhat inheritable. So-called thrifty genes enable certain people to readily convert excess calories to fat, whereas a quite different gene appears instead to turn extra food energy into heat. Which gene type you inherit may dictate your metabolic speed.

Genetics also determines your body shape and the percent of muscle or fat it carries. If your body bears more muscle, you likely have a high metabolism. Energy-hungry muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do, even while you're sleeping. It's the reason why men, who have more lean muscle than women, tend to lose weight quickly and gain it back slowly. Older people often put on pounds as their metabolisms slow, but the reason has more to do with shrinking muscle mass than with age. Starting at age 30, a sedentary person can expect to lose 10 percent of her muscle mass each decade of life thereafter. When muscle shrinks, metabolism slows and fat moves in to make up the difference.

Weight-loss aids that claim to speed metabolism have nothing to do with genes or lean muscle. Instead, they often contain ephedrine, a central nervous-system stimulant derived from the ephedra plant (Ephedra sinica) that speeds up basic body functions—sometimes dangerously so among people with certain health conditions. The problem with relying on such products, says Stephen Wangen, ND, is that they're a temporary metabolic fix. "If you don't take them, your rate will go back down," he says. Your best bet is to work with what you've got.

Speed It And Feed It
Weight training is the most effective, lasting route to increasing lean muscle mass and speeding your metabolism. In the same way that aerobic exercise forces heart muscle to adapt to increased cardiovascular demands, weight lifting forces leg, arm and back muscles to grow and strengthen. Larger muscles demand more energy, and metabolism shifts into high gear to supply it.

Exercising for just 20 to 30 minutes is enough to increase metabolic rate and boost calorie burning for several hours, says Wangen. "Of course, the more you exercise, the more you raise the metabolic rate—not just for hours, but for days and months," he says.

Once you've upped your metabolism, you must feed it. And that's where many of us go awry, says Derek Johnson, a Los Angeles dietitian. "Most people don't eat enough calories," he says. "They view foods as so adversarial that they cut back."

Eating too little almost always backfires. Once you stop eating, the body perceives starvation and slows its metabolic rate. "Our bodies were designed to operate in a much different environment, and survival depended on conserving energy," explains Wangen. Inconsistent eating can have the same effect. It takes the average person 48 hours to maximize metabolism, says Johnson, and one missed meal can negate several days of healthy eating.

"The biggest rule is to not go more than three hours without eating," he says. "You don't want to let your blood sugar drop." Johnson recommends having small meals throughout the day, including snacks between breakfast and lunch.

The foods you choose can also make or break your metabolic rate. Fats, protein and complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and have more staying power than the simple sugars found in sweets. Imagine the body as a furnace, foods as fuel, and metabolism as a heat pattern, says Johnson. "If you're feeding your body with newspaper, you're going to get a quick energy burst and then a quick drop," he explains. "We want to choose foods that are more like coal, that create a very hot heat pattern."

Match Your Metabolism
You are unique and so is your metabolism. It's the reason, says Johnson, that a high-carbohydrate diet may work wonders for one person and send another into a sleepy stupor. Choosing foods that suit your metabolism is a more precise way to increase energy and prompt weight loss.

According to Johnson, there are three basic metabolic types (see "What's Your Type?"). Blood tests can determine your category, says Johnson, but in lieu of lab work, go by how you feel. For instance, a tendency to be groggy in the early morning or afternoon is a good sign that you need more fat in your diet.

Drinking plenty of purified water will speed up any metabolism—three-fourths ounce per pound of body weight daily, or about 11 glasses a day for an average person. "If you're not drinking water, but you're still eating decently and going to the gym, you will not metabolize fat at the rate you need to," says Johnson. When the body perceives thirst, metabolism slows, just as it does if you skip a meal. "If people just increased their water intake and added snacks between meals, regardless of their type of metabolism, they would lose weight and feel much better," he says.

Sound simple? It is. Exercise your body, feed it well, and it will pay you back with lifelong health.

Catherine Monahan is a health and science writer and a frequent contributor to Delicious Living.

Delicious Living

Soothing Sick Kids

"Most run-of-the-mill childhood illnesses are self-limiting infections, meaning kids get over them on their own," says Linda B. White, MD, coauthor with Sunny Mavor, AHG, of Kids, Herbs & Health (Interweave Press, 1998). "There's a place for herbs because they give that little boost for self-healing." These three common childhood conditions respond well to herbs:

Middle Ear Infections are a frequent cause of trips to the doctor, but research shows antibiotics often aren't necessary. White recommends echinacea to boost immunity, antimicrobial herbs such as garlic, and warm herbal eardrops, found in natural products stores. "Usually the drops will contain garlic because it is antimicrobial; St. John's wort, which is mildly antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory; and mullein, which is mildly analgesic," White says.

Sore Throats can be a little tricky because of the possibility of strep throat. The only way to confirm a streptococcal infection is with a laboratory test. Until strep test results come back, "gargle with goldenseal, Oregon grape root or thyme tea," White recommends. "If it isn't strep, continue with gargles and give echinacea to boost immunity, licorice or marshmallow root to soothe inflammation, and thyme or Oregon grape root to fight infection."

Pink Eye can be treated with an eyewash made of antimicrobial and soothing herbs, says White. In their book, White and Mavor recommend an herbal eyewash containing eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Oregon grape root.

Talk to a qualified herbalist before treating your child. Also, monitor symptoms closely. If your child's condition worsens, see your health care practitioner immediately.

Delicious Living

Walk through the Web

Check out these online resources to help jump-start your walking program: Provides a free, online analysis of your diet and lifestyle habits. You can also choose to add your information, confidentially, to the National Runner's and Walker's Survey, sponsored by the National Health Study of Nutrition. A user-friendly walking and exercise online diary, allowing you to track your workouts by creating a virtual log of your walks (distances, times, calories used). This site also offers feedback statistics and the option of comparing your progress with other walkers. A comprehensive site with information on the environmental, economic and transportation benefits of walking, plus ideas for making your community more walker-friendly.

—Elisa Bosley

Delicious Living

Energize With Walking

Energize With Walking
By Jennifer Barrett

This winter, be happily pedestrian as you step up your resolution to get fit

With the new year, many of us contemplate exercise—or rather a lack of it—as a part of our life we'd like to change. Unfortunately, the realities of winter can derail even the best-intended workout program. Trudging back from the pool with wet hair, sliding along crunchy snow on a bike path, or jogging down an icy sidewalk are obstacles that cause us to quit before our new regimen gathers steam.

There is one fitness program, however, that has a better chance of surviving winter than most. Just ask Patti Hoppin Mohler, a 35-year-old mother of two who routinely pulls herself out of bed even on the coldest of mornings. Last January, Mohler's resolution was to walk most mornings, and she's still at it a year later, meeting a friend at 6:30 a.m. for an invigorating tour around their central Connecticut town.

"I used to run competitively," says Mohler, "but now I feel walking is gentler on my body. It's also great down-time, a small part of the day that's just for me." Like many fans of walking, Mohler finds winter as good a time as any to get out. In fact, she began her regimen of brisk walking—three times a week for up to 50 minutes a stretch—in the middle of last year's particularly snowy season. She's testament to the fact that there's no reason to quit a walking program—or avoid starting one—when the temperature drops. With a few simple changes and a little common sense, anyone can reap the advantages of this pursuit year-round.

Healthy Hoofing
As far as medical benefits go, walking covers all the bases. "It decreases your risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes," says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, president of the New York chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine and medical director of the New York City Marathon. "Walking also lowers blood pressure and 'bad' LDL cholesterol, while raising 'good' HDL levels." As an aerobic exercise, walking trains the heart as a muscle and sheds pounds while also being low impact. "It doesn't aggravate the knees and joints as much as a high-impact sport would," he adds.

Like any exercise that gets your heart pumping, walking has the backing of research to support its health perks. One meta-analysis, or statistical review, of 16 different studies, for example, found that walking programs reduce resting blood pressure in adults (MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston). Another study of nearly 6,000 women over age 65 found a positive correlation between the amount of exercise, including walking, and cognitive health (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2001, vol. 161, no. 14).

While avid walkers insist the sport reigns over other forms of exercise, there's no research to prove that—yet. In 1998, Paul T. Williams, PhD, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, launched a large-scale survey to assess whether walking truly does offer the same benefits as running, with much less risk. "We gain certain medical benefits from recent exercise," he says, underscoring the importance of continuity in any exercise program. "Because walking is something people can do throughout their entire lives, we wanted to try to quantify its benefits." (See "Walk through the Web," for information on participating in the study.)

Getting Started
Taking up walking in winter can involve little more than putting on warm attire and a pair of waterproof, comfortable shoes and heading out the door. But you'll more likely stick to the program long-term if you make a few preparations ahead of time. First off, says Maharam, get clearance from your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program, especially if you have been relatively inactive. Second, take a moment to figure out your target heart rate. The formula is simple: From the number 220 (for men) or 222 (for women), subtract your age. "For a 28-year-old woman, 194 would be the maximum heart rate," explains Elizabeth Gale, a certified athletic trainer at Healthsouth in West Hartford, Conn. "A beginner would want to work at 50 or 60 percent of that number," or 97 to 116 beats per minute. After walking anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, says Gale, take your pulse at the neck for 30 seconds, and multiply the number of beats by two. Heart-rate monitors, of course, will do the math for you, but most experts agree that they can become one more gadget ultimately getting between you and your resolve to go out and "just do it."

Beginners will find their hearts beating quickly at first. The American Council on Exercise recommends at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three or four days a week. As you progress in your walking and become more fit, try increasing your pace so that you work at 75 percent of your target heart rate. Swinging or pumping your arms will help you reach the target heart rate faster, as you'll be expending more energy. "How you feel should be the determining factor in how long it takes to up your speed," Gale adds.

Walking in what might seem the off-season affords you time to drink in winter's quiet beauty, while avoiding feelings of cabin fever and even holiday stress. But it pays to be prepared. Dress in layers, favoring the new synthetic fabrics that wick away perspiration. "Don't put cotton close to the skin," Maharam advises, "as it doesn't allow for air pockets that will keep you warm. Damp cotton socks will also blister feet." Cover all extremities, including ears and hands, remove any jewelry that could draw the cold, and be sure to rehydrate after your walk, because you sweat even in cold weather.

According to Casey Meyers, author of Walking: A Complete Guide to the Complete Exercise (Random House, 1992), the greatest threat to wintertime walking is wind chill, not temperature. Check your local weather station before venturing out. "On a cold, windy day, the most important rule to remember is always start your walk headed into the wind. You won't walk far before you'll know if this is a day when you should just pack it in," he says.

Because of the added challenge of poor weather in winter, Gale recommends that those just starting out pick a milder day for their first walk. Echoing the advice of Williams and so many in the physical fitness field, she emphasizes the need for continuity. "If you start out walking on the worst day of the year, you just won't enjoy it—and then you won't do it for very long." Indeed, with minimal effort, you can integrate walking into your daily life in a way that's enjoyable, nearly effortless and sustainable for good health year-round.

Jennifer Barrett lives in West Hartford, Conn., where she works as a freelance writer and editor for The Herb Quarterly.

Delicious Living

Small Steps Can Lead To Big Changes

Replace standard brands with all-natural. Fill your medicine cabinet with nature-based brands of toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, tampons, and skin- and body-care products. You've been thinking about it for months—do it now.

Keep a journal to take note of the positives. Focus on the abundance in your life—family, friends, good experiences—and give thanks on a regular basis.

Buy a juicer so the whole family can down fresh vegetable and fruit juices whenever the mood hits. Or if smoothies are more to your taste, invest in a heavy-duty blender to easily whip up frothy, nutrient-packed concoctions for all.

A mango mocktail, served in a cocktail glass with a swizzle stick and paper umbrella, is a health-enhancing pick-me-up that all ages can enjoy. In a blender, combine 1 cup yogurt, 1 medium mango cut into chunks, and honey to taste. Serve over ice.

Stock up on nontoxic cleansers for inside your home. For outside, investigate natural alternatives to synthetic fertilizers and garden pesticides.

Recent research has confirmed the health benefits of such fun foods as chocolate (beneficial to heart health and mood) and hot sauce (the capsaicin in chile peppers bolsters metabolism and helps keep cholesterol in check).

The next time you're strolling down the aisle of your natural products store, add five novel foods to your shopping cart: Seitan, tilapia or frisée perhaps? Sample different bulk items: Try dried cherries or exotic trail mix.

When midday fatigue hits, close your eyes for a few minutes to give the brain a restorative break.

Stock up on supplements you need—vitamins, minerals, herbs—and take them religiously.

When was the last time you got out a board game (Parcheesi?), gathered together a group of friends to hit balls and run around the bases, had a slumber party? Stock up on healthy snack food, sports drinks and beauty products and pretend—with an older and wiser perspective, of course—to be a kid again.

Bring nothing but organically grown products to the table. Prepare a feast for the family of seasonal fruits and vegetables, an oven-roasted free-range turkey and all the fixings.

Install purifiers to ensure that the water and air within your home is as clean as it can be.

Volunteering provides a sense of purpose, puts your concerns in a different perspective and just makes you feel good.

When harried and in a hurry, we forget to breathe the way nature intended. Take time to deeply replenish the body with oxygen.

Take a hike, or walk, or a fast stroll—just get some exercise and connect with nature at the same time.

Delicious Living

Metabolism: What's Your Type?

Does steak leave you feeling funky? Is pasta putting you to sleep? You may be eating foods at odds with your metabolism, says dietitian Derek Johnson, who theorizes we all fall into one of three metabolic types:

Fat and Protein Efficient: You tend to be strong and big boned and do best on a diet of proteins and fats from fish, turkey, chicken, soy, nuts and eggs. Johnson recommends snacking on fruits or potatoes for energy, but suggests keeping simple sugars to a minimum. Since you don't digest carbs quickly, your blood sugar levels easily spike and headaches soon follow. Johnson's tip? If you're sleepy each afternoon, consider including more fat in your three main meals.

Carbohydrate Efficient: Chances are, you're tall and thin and haven't gained a pound since college. According to Johnson, you're more likely to metabolize carbohydrates quickly, and you should eat lots of them. He suggests minimizing, but not eliminating, fats and proteins and incorporating more vegetables and whole grains into your diet. His advice? Consult the glycemic index to determine which foods deliver best on complex carbohydrates (look online at

Dual: A small number of people do best eating equal parts protein, fat and carbohydrate. So mix it up. According to Johnson, you should steer clear of fat-free foods because they're usually high in sugar. Fats, like those contained in avocados, almonds, and canola and olive oils, are an important part of your fat-efficient metabolic side.

Delicious Living

10,000 Steps

10,000 Steps

Don't feel you have time for walking? A program called 10,000 Steps might be more your style than a formal exercise program. Originating in Japan, the concept has caught on in the states as a simple way to walk five miles a day, roughly 10,000 steps. All you need is a pedometer (available for as little as $20 at Web sites like, or at your local sports retailer). The device clips onto your waistband and measures each step you take. Even if you're basically sedentary, normal activities (getting up to grab the phone, typing on your computer) start you off with 2,000 or so paces. For the rest, you need to get creative—especially in winter—but that's part of the fun. Perhaps the dog could use another couple of walks around the block today. Or maybe the kids would enjoy an afternoon nature hike, complete with notebooks to record their findings. In truly inclement weather, head for the mall for some fast-paced window shopping, or to the gym's treadmill. Or, there's always the stairs at home; with enough visits to the attic and basement, you'll reach 10,000 steps in no time.

Delicious Living

Fear Organics? Fear Not

Fear Organics? Fear Not

Ever since ABC News reported in February 2000 that organic food had as many pesticides as conventional fruits and vegetables, confusion has reigned in grocery stores despite the fact that ABC later retracted the original account. Proponents of organics have had a hard time calming shoppers' fears and backing up their claims that organic food is actually easier on the environment. Until now.

Using data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumers Union (CU), and California's Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR), researchers found that conventional produce is two to five times more likely than organic produce to contain pesticide residue (Food Additives and Contaminants, 2002, vol. 19, no. 5). According to USDA tests, 90 percent of some of our favorite conventionally grown fruits and vegetables failed to come clean of pesticides. (For more specifics, see "Pesticide Stats," below.)

If you're still disappointed to hear that organic produce has pesticide residue at all, take note: When the researchers excluded data for residues from now-banned pesticides that had been used for long periods in the United States (DDT and chlordane, for example), the amount of organic produce that showed residue from at least one pesticide fell 10 percentage points—from 23 percent to 13 percent. When researchers examined conventional produce using the same variables, the number went down only 2 percentage points. The significant drop for organic produce indicates that much of the residue on organically grown food comes from contaminated soil and irrigation water, as well as runoff from nearby conventional farms.

Contamination levels on some organic foods were high enough that researchers speculated they were not due to drift and might be chalked up to both honest mistakes in labeling and fraud by people anywhere along the organic distribution chain. As an example, researchers cite a sample of "organic" Mexican bell peppers that tested positive for six types of residues. Fortunately, the new USDA National Organic Program should minimize mistakes and deception in the future, causing the percentage of organic foods with pesticide residue to drop even further.

—Bryce Edmonds

Medicinal mushroom research illuminates fungi for immune health

The stress and pressure of modern society take a toll on immune system health. Those with weakened immunity are more susceptible to infection and disease. The need to maintain or rebuild a healthy defence has led researchers to minerals, plants and fungi in search of natural health-supporting properties. The fungi family in particular is showing promise for its ability to enhance immune function.

Mushrooms grow wild in many parts of the world and also are commercially cultivated. Nutritionally, mushrooms are a valuable health food - low in calories and carbohydrates; loaded with vegetable proteins and essential amino acids; a source of some fibre; and rich in a number of important vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, iron, potassium, selenium and zinc.1

Medicinal mushroom varieties

Mushrooms have been used medicinally for centuries, particularly in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. In many Asian cultures, mushrooms are used to promote good health and vitality and to increase the body's adaptive capabilities. Although the nutritional facts and culinary uses of mushrooms are well accepted in the West, the fungi's medicinal qualities have yet to make it into the mainstream.

Of the hundreds of known mushroom varieties, several have been studied for their ability to enhance the human immune system and fight infections. Some well-known medicinal mushrooms with benefits for the immune system include reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), shiitake (Lentinus edodes), maitake (Grifola frondosa) and cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis). Some of the less familiar mushrooms include bai mu erh (Tremella fuciformis), fu ling (Poria cocos), zhu ling (Grifola umbellata), lion's mane (Hericium erinaceums), Auricularia auricula-judae and Coriolus versicolor.2-6

Science-backed mushroom benefits

Researchers recently studied some of the isolated chemicals from a number of Basidiomycetes mushrooms - a large group of fungi whose members range from the familiar button mushroom to rusts and smuts that sometimes ravage crops. The constituents show promising immune-modulating, antibacterial, antiviral, antitumour, antiparasitic, cardiovascular, and hypercholesterolemiac effects.7-10 In fact, mushrooms have an impressive effect on the cardiovascular system. Researchers have found that numerous varieties such as maitake, shiitake and cordyceps sinesis can reduce total cholesterol levels, reduce the bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins) and triglycerides, decrease platelet binding and reduce arterial pressure.11 Mushrooms also can affect glycemic levels and inflammatory conditions.12

In addition to these promising preliminary findings, scientists have noted that mushrooms have definite primary and secondary physiological effects on the human immune system. Israeli researchers noted in 1999 that cellular components and secondary metabolites of many mushrooms affect the immune system of the host and therefore could be used to treat a variety of disease states.13

Medicinal mushrooms' powerful immune-modulating and potentiating activity help support and enhance overall immune function. Researchers also are finding that mushrooms can directly stimulate both the basic (lymphocytes, neutrophils, etc.) and secondary immune responses (immunoglobulins IgE, IgA, IgG) of the immune system. This stimulus can increase production of immune defenders such as cytokines and macrophages, which play vital roles in recognizing and removing foreign antigens, as well as releasing chemical mediators including interleukin-1.

Bioactive chemicals in mushrooms

In recent studies on medicinal mushrooms, researchers have used modern analytical and laboratory techniques to significantly improve isolation and identification of bioactive chemicals. These techniques have revealed mushroom substances with antimicrobial activity. A 1999 study in Japan found three kinds of antibacterial substances in shiitake mushrooms that were effective against Streptococcus spp., Actinomyces spp., Lactobacillus spp., Prevotella spp. and Porphyromonas spp. of oral origin.14 A study in Spain found that 45 percent of 317 isolated (extracted) substances from 109 polypore and gilled mushroom species showed antimicrobial activity.15 Some mushrooms have generalised antimicrobial effects, while others have quite specific properties. This dual capability is important because it provides two separate methods of immune enhancement and response, which is important for treating specific microbial infections and disease states such as gram-negative streptococcal and herpetic virus microbial infections, such as sarcoma cancers, leukemia and hepatitis.

Substances that have been found to potentiate the immune system include beta-glucans, lentins, polysaccharides, polysaccharide-peptide complexes, triterpenoids, nucleosides and other secondary metabolites.16-19 Many of these bioactive substances, through their stimulatory effects on the immune system, are showing powerful antitumour, antimutagenic and anticancer activity.20

Beta-glucan is isolated from shiitake and maitake mushrooms,21 as well as from yeastcell walls22,23 and from oat and barley bran.24 Beta-glucan binds to macrophages and other phagocytic white blood cells at certain receptors and activates their anti-infection and antitumour activity by stimulating free radical production.25 This, in turn, signals the phagocytic immune cells to engulf and destroy foreign bodies, be they bacteria, viruses or tumour cells.26

Three separate multicentre, randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials have been conducted - two at Harvard Medical School - using beta-glucan on patients undergoing high-risk major abdominal and thoracic surgery or high-risk gastrointestinal surgery. Patients in one study who received high-dose beta-glucan (2.0 mg/kg) had significantly fewer postoperative infectious complications compared with placebo.27 In another, beta-glucan patients experienced 1.4 infections per patient vs. 3.4 infections in the placebo group.28 In the third study, of 1,249 patients, beta-glucan patients had a statistically significant 39 per cent reduction in serious infections and death compared with placebo.29 The investigators concluded that beta-glucan was safe and well tolerated and could potentially decrease postoperative infections.

Medicinal mushrooms' potential tumour-inhibiting effects have led to a recent surge in research in this particular area.30-31 In a 1999 study in Japan, researchers isolated a polysaccharide from the mushroom hime-matsutake (Agaricus blazei Murrill) that proved to have antitumour effects against sarcoma 180.32 In a mouse study, other researchers investigated the antimutagenic effects of the same mushroom. They concluded that antimutagenic activities of hime-matsutake, under certain circumstances, might contribute to its anticarcinogenic effect.33

Umbrella of protection

The growing body of scientific evidence indicates that mushroom extracts and derivatives support the immune system. For wellness and general health effects, a combination of mushroom products (vs. a single mushroom type) is recommended, preferably from an extract rather than an unprocessed whole mushroom. A combination of different medicinal mushrooms offers both the generalised and specific immune system benefits. For example, a formula that includes some combination of reishi, shiitake, cordyceps, fu ling, lion's mane, bai mu erh, and zhu ling extracts can be taken frequently or even daily to enhance the immune system. As powerful immune modulators and potentiators, medicinal mushrooms are contraindicated for a number of autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus and collagen autoimmune disorders.

Medicinal mushrooms' value to human health is beginning to gain acceptance as researchers provide data on the array of bioactive chemicals found within these fascinating fungi.


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2. Kawagishi et al. Erinacines A, B, C, strong stimulators of nerve growth factor synthesis, from the myczlia of Hericium erinaceum. Tetrahedron Letters 1994;35(10):1569-72.

3. Yu SJ, Tseng J. Fu-ling, a Chinese herbal drug, modulates cytokine secretion by human peripheral blood monocytes. Int J Immunopharmacol 1996 Jan;18(1):37-44.

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5. Gordon M, et al. A placebo-controlled trial of the immune modulator, lentinan, in HIV-positive patients: a phase I/II trial. J Med 1998;29(5-6):305-30.

6. Chang ST, Buswell JA. Ganoderma lucidum—a mushrooming medicinal mushroom. Intl J Medicinal Mushrooms 1999;1:139-46.

7. Ishikawa NK, et al. Antimicrobial cuparene-type sesquiterpenes, enokipodins C and D, from a mycelial culture of Flammulin velutipes. J Nat Prod 2001 Jul;64(7):932-34.

8. Shon YH, Nam KS. Antimutagenicity and induction of anticarcinogenic phase II enzymes by basidiomycetes. J Ethnopharmacol 2001 Sep;77(1):103-9.

9. Fukushima M, Ohashi T, et al. cholesterol-lowering effects of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) fiber, shiitake (Lentinus edodes) fiber, and enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) fiber in rats. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2001 Sep;226(8):758-65.

10. Suay I, et al. Screening of basidiomycetes for antimicrobial activities. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek 2000 Aug;78(2):129-3.

11. Francia CS, et al. Current research finding on the effects of selected mushrooms on cardiovascular diseases. Intl J Medicinal Mushrooms 1999;1:169-72.

12. Zhu JS, et al. The scientific rediscovery of a precious ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinesis: part II. J Altern Complement Med 1998 winter;4(4):429-57.

13. Wasser SP, Weis AL. Therapeutic effects of substances occurring in higher Basidiomycetes mushrooms: a modern perspective. Crit Rev Immunol 1999;19(1):65-96.

14. Hirasawa M, et al. Three kinds of antibacterial substances from Lentinus edodes (Berk.) Sing. (Shiitake, an edible mushroom). Int J Antimicrob Agents 1999 Feb;11(2):151-7.

15. Suay I, et al. Screening of basidiomycetes for antimicrobial activities. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek 2000 Aug;78(2):129-39.

16. Zhu M, et al. Triterpene antioxidants from Ganoderma lucidum. Phytother Res 1999;13(6):529-31.

17. Eo S, et al. Antiherpetic activities of various protein bound polysaccharides isolated from Ganoderma lucidum. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;68(1-3):175-81.

18. Lui M, et al. Induction of immunomodulating cytokines by a new polysaccharide-peptide complex from culture mycelia of Lentinus edodes. Immunopharmacology 1998 Nov;40(3):187-98.

19. Ooi VE, Liu F. Immunomodulation and anti-cancer activity of polysaccharide-protein complexes. Curr Med Chem 2000 Jul;7(7):715-29.

20. Borchers AT, et al. Mushrooms, tumors, and immunity. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1999 Sep;221(4):281-93.

21. Mizuno T, et al. Antitumoractive substances from mushrooms. Food Rev Int 1995;11:23-6.

22. Tokunaka K, et al. Immunological and immunotoxicological activities of a water soluble 1-3 beta D glucan, CSBG, from a Candida spp. Int J Immunopharmacol 2000; 22:383-94.

23. Bacon J, et al. The glucan component of the cell wall of baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) considered in relation to its ultrastructure. Biochem J 1969;114:557-67.

24. Baur SK, Geisler G. Variability of the beta-glucan content in oat caryopsis of 132 cultivated oat genotypes and 39 wild oat genotypes. J Agr Crop Sci 1996;176:151-7.

25. Adachi Y, et al. The effect enhancement of cytokine production by macrophages stimulated with 1,3 beta D glucan, grifolan, isolated from Grifola frondosa. Biol Pharm Bull 1994;17:1554-60.

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Doctors speak on mycological medicine

"In times when we are faced with increased bacterial and viral diseases and higher levels of immune stress, it is refreshing to read such an elegant review of the biological properties of medicinal mushrooms. The author provides information concerning the health benefits of these mushrooms and some of the experimental data that supports their claims of immune-modulating activities.

"It is clear that the use of the medicinal mushroom extracts has its place in the management of certain chronic conditions, including cancer. However, the author does point out that the use of such extracts is not advocated in certain conditions, such as autoimmune states. This is a well-founded warning because these extracts enhance the functioning of the inflammatory cells, and boosting the activity of such cells is not advisable when chronic inflammation forms part of the disease pathogenesis. Furthermore, human clinical trials with clearly defined endpoints of efficacy are lacking at present."

- Patrick JD Bouic, Ph.D., is director of immunology at Tygerberg Hospital, South Africa. For 14 years he has researched plant-derived molecules having immune-modulating properties, particularly for clinically managing infectious diseases.

"When used appropriately - as in the treatment of life-threatening bacterial infections - antibiotics are true wonder drugs. But their appeal as potential magic bullets has been too great to resist, and overworked medical doctors now write millions of unnecessary prescriptions for coughs, runny noses and fevers. In this well-documented article, Dr. Lombardi suggests that medicinal mushrooms, along with other widely available immune-enhancing supplements, can provide a viable alternative to this dilemma.

"Having played a central role in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms may be the first functional foods. In the Orient (and increasingly in the West) these ancient remedies have become immensely popular - some 2.5 million metric tons of medicinal mushrooms are produced each year, constituting $1.5 billion in sales. Lombardi is right that the future is in standardized extracts - the most effective way to harness their remarkable health benefits."

- Robert Rountree, M.D., has been practicing integrated, holistic medicine in Boulder, Colo., for 20 years. He is co-author of Immunotics: A Revolutionary Way to Fight Infection, Beat Chronic Illness, and Stay Well (Putnam, 2000).