Mushroom beta glucan (MBG) has been used as an additive to health-related foods and medicinal supplements for many years, and its health benefits are widely recognized beyond doubts. Still, questions are often asked concerning its applications, and we hereby invited a panel of experts to address some of the frequently asked questions.
Q: What exactly is mushroom beta glucan?
A: Found in cell walls of many species of mushrooms (e.g. Reishi, Antrodia, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, Agaricus subrufescens, and Versicolor), MBG is a natural polysaccharide consisted of polymerized glucose that cannot be produced from chemical synthesis. When absorbed into our body, MBG will activate macrophages and many other immune cells in the blood, and thereby stimulate and regulate our immune defense system.
Q: How is mushroom beta glucan different from other carbohydrates such as starch?
A: Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids make up the three major categories of nutrients that can be converted by our digestive system into energy. Starch is a polymer of glucose in a linear structure, and can be digested by special enzymes exist in our digestive tracts into di- and monosaccharide and eventually be turned into energy. Beta glucan is also a polymer of glucose but has a spiral structure, and there is no enzyme in our digestive tracts that can degrade and convert beta glucan into energy. Instead, beta glucan is able to remain in its original form and trigger immune cells that interact with beta glucan to promote defensive immune response, such as generation of cytokines, to fight against virus invasion.
It has been revealed through scientific studies that MBG can enter our body via special mechanism and exert its manifold functions which include activating immune cells, suppressing cancer growth, and lowering cholesterol level. As a result, it helps us to maintain an optimal health condition and fend off hazard factors.
Q: How to choose for high-quality products of mushroom beta glucan?
A: High-quality MBG is able to activate the immune system and maintain cell health. It stimulates our defense system and strengthens disease resistance while imposing no side effect. To obtain high quality MBG, the polysaccharide has to be extracted from mushroom and purified by trained specialists using cutting-edge technology, and processed under extremely rigid quality control procedures. Short-cut or substandard manufacturing process will render an inferior product with unpleasant odor and precipitation. It may also be contaminated by potential toxins that could lead to unpredictable side effect. MBG’s efficacy is at its best when it is in a high purity form without any contaminant. Therefore, for the best results of using MBG, one shall search for MBG products of high purity with no impurities, and avoid inferior quality extract or grounded mushroom powder.
Q: Is mushroom beta glucan toxic, and does it have any side effect?
A: MBG possesses no toxicity at all. Previous clinical studies show that there is no side effect associated with the use of MBG. US FDA has verified MBG as GRAS, a safe food ingredient. However, if extracted and processed by improper methods or through unskilled operations, MBG products could potentially be contaminated by aflatoxins and other pollutants. Thus it is essential that MBG is produced and purified by specialists, and quality control is a crucial part of the manufacturing process.
Q: Will mushroom beta glucan cause allergic reaction in allergy-prone individuals?
A: Mushroom beta glucan is a large molecule of glucose polymer, and some MBG may contain small amount of protein as co-factor. Although allergy is mostly caused by protein molecules, so far there is no recorded case of allergy with MBG as the allergen. Years of studies on the application of MBG have revealed that the linkage structure of MBG make it an unlikely allergen.
Q: Since mushroom beta glucan can increase immune functions, will excessive taking of mushroom beta glucan cause any negative reaction or lead to autoimmune?
A: The mechanism of MBG to energize immune system is to activate macrophage and other immune cells. MBG needs to bind with the particular receptor on the cell membrane of macrophages in order to stimulate the immune function. However, the number of receptors on a cell is limited and when they are saturated with MBG, cells will not be able to accept any additional MBG, and thus “overdosing” or over-stimulation will not occur. If there is excess amount of MBG in blood, macrophage and NKC will devour and clear them out. If some excess amount of MBG did get into blood or lymph system, they will be utilized by micro flora in the large intestine. Therefore there is no issue of overdose for MBG. Furthermore, MBG strengthens immune cell in thymus to recognize and resist invasions from outside more effectively. Under these conditions, autoimmune issue should never happen. Summarily, MBG acts like a key. Once the key gets into the designated lock (receptors on macrophages), the immune system will be turned on, degenerated immune cell be rejuvenated and activated, and threats from outside can be blocked and host kept healthy.
Q: Will mushroom beta glucan antagonize effects of other medicines? Can one take mushroom beta glucan alongside with other medicines?
A: The molecular structure of MBG confers it a highly stable chemical characteristics, making it inactive with other medicines and chemical molecules. Since MBG is an immune activator, if it is used alongside with other medicines, the synergetic effect of the two will make the medicine even more effective. Many years of clinical studies indicate that pure MBG can be safely taken orally or by injection simultaneously with any chemicals or medicines with no hazard caused by MBG itself. Better even, MBG can enhance the therapeutic effect as well as reduce any side effect of other medicines.
Q: Is there scientific base for the claimed medicinal and health benefits of mushroom beta glucan?
A: Abundant Results from studies conducted in leading universities and research institutes around the world have indicated that MBG is a very effective immune booster or modulator, and even more scientific papers and clinical reports cited in the internet are available confirming the health claims of MBG, which is beneficial to human health and safe for environmental protection. US National Institute of Health (NIH) recognized the value of MBG both as a food ingredient as well as a medicinal supplement, and, based on this knowledge, has been providing large funds to many universities and research institutes to further investigate MBG and its application. This will certainly expand the scientific literature for mushroom beta glucan.
Q: Does mushroom beta glucan have any effort on Staphylococcus and other pathogenic bacteria?
A: Yellow Staphylococcus and green Bacilli are the most common pathogenic bacteria causing complications in medical and surgical patients, particularly in people with a weak physicality or patients being operated on recently. Taking the advantage of MBG to boost immune capability, patients will be able to effectively block or minimize infection caused by these two bacteria if taking MBG, and have a speedy recovery.
Q: Does mushroom beta glucan have other effects on the immune system, besides activating macrophage?
A: MBG has manifold role in enhancing our immune functionality, which includes:
- MBG can not only activate macrophage, but also activate mononuclear lymphocytes, neutrophils and Natural Killer Cell. At the same time, it helps to eliminate tumor cells and block invasion of pathogenic bacteria.
- Once MBG gets into our body through mouth, the activated immune cells secretes cytokines and cell growth factors to help host to resist invasion of virus and carcinogen factors.
- MBG can infuse into epidermis and migrate between derma and epidermis, and functions to activates skin and muscle cells, strengthen skin and top layer muscles to resist hazards, and stimulate collagen generation. For this reason, MBG can mitigate pain and accelerate recovery for patients suffering from UV burn, skin wounds and cuts, and fire burn.
- MBG can significantly stimulate biota growth in intestine and improve intestine overall health.
- Once MBG gets into cells and blood, it can activate functional cells immediately and promote physiological balance. Meanwhile, the mechanism behind this would be better understood with further scientific researches.
Q: Can mushroom beta glucan be applied to reduce or even replace antibiotics usage?
A: Abuse of antibiotics and drugs in recent years has become one of the major issues to human health and environment. In 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) has banned the use of antibiotics of old generation. It appears to be just a matter of time when antibiotics will eventually be abandoned completely. Meanwhile, we certainly need a different category of substitutes to strength human immune and resist disease. In view of its positive values to health and environment, MBG is naturally among the best candidates to replace antibiotics. If we take advantage of the benefits of MBG in place of using antibiotics, we can enhance the functions of our immune system in its physiological mechanism, and patients recover much faster without side effect. Toward this end, MBG can help us to reduce using antibiotics and other drugs, and improve the quality of life.
Q: What is the mechanism for mushroom beta glucan to reduce the damage caused by drinking alcohol?
A: MBG activates immune cell to combat all kinds of detrimental factors. In case of alcohol, first MBG molecule is able to absorb alcohol. Due to its large molecular mass, when taking orally MBG will remain in stomach considerably longer than most ingredients of food. If alcohol is taken during this period, MBG will absorb some alcohol and reduce the amount of alcohol that gets into small intestine where alcohol will get into blood. Secondly, MBG promotes liver to secrete more alcohol dehydrogenase into blood, which can break down ethanol into hydrogen and water, both harmless to our body. Finally, MBG activates immune cells that can eliminate free radicals induced by alcohol, thereby minimizing the damage of drinking alcohol.
Although MBG can antagonize the detrimental effect of alcohol, this required certain amount of MBG in our body to realize this effect. By all means, drinking and smoking are bad habits that have many damaging effects to our health. Although there are suggestions that drinking red wine is beneficial to the cardiovascular system due to the antioxidants in the red wine, this notion lacks consideration for the harmful effect of ingesting alcohol at the same time. Overall drinking red wine has more harms than benefits.
Q: How does mushroom beta glucan help to rid us of free radicals?
A: Free radical is the major source of our disease. Fortunately, MBG can protect our cells from attacks of free radicals and maintain the integrity of the normal functions in cells. Results from animal studies have demonstrated that applying beta glucan from Versicolor through intraperitoneal injection can efficiently prevent peroxidation of lipid and inhibit generation of free radicals. Versicolor beta glucan also shows great effect in inhibiting generation of peroxidated radicals, with a 52.8% inhibition of free radical generation. MBG clearly promotes production of superoxide dismutase and also clears out peroxide and hydroxyl radicals.
Q: Can patients with diabetes use mushroom beta glucan?
A: MBG is a functional polysaccharide. Results of many studies indicate that MBG enhances immune cells to produce cytokine IL-1, facilitates insulin secretion, suppresses blood sugar level, and improves arteriosclerosis patient’s health. For those reasons, MBG has already been widely applied to diabetic patients to help them regain health. Also, there are experimental results showing that mycelium of Cordyceps and MBG from Reishi cause a 45% drop in blood sugar level in mice 3 hours after injection of MBG.
Q: Please provide a brief description of the functions of mushroom beta glucan.
A: Mushroom beta glucan has been shown to have many functions, which include:
1. Defend against aging-causing factors, and energize our cells and body;
2. Cleanse free radicals;
4. Strengthen our immune potency;
5. Lower cholesterol level in blood;
6. Relieve symptoms of diabetes and arteriosclerosis;
7. Antagonize tumors of malignance;
8. Help patients to recover vitality after cancer treatments;
9. Enhance the effectiveness of medicines through synergistic reaction;
10. Mitigate adverse reactions caused by chemo and radiation treatments;
11. Prevent thrombosis and cardiovascular disease.
Q: What is the proper dosage of mushroom beta glucan to achieve the highest efficiency?
A: Based on tests measuring the annexation capacity of human and animal’s erythrocyte, it is recommended that, for general health maintenance, a minimum of 500 mg MBG daily is needed to achieve effective activation of our immune system. For patients or individuals with weak constitution, a minimum of 1,000 mg MBG daily is suggested. So far there is no scientific data dictating a maximum limit for MBG dosage. Conservatively, MBG may be used in a larger dose for medical benefits. It is our hope that future studies can provide more information concerning the maximum dosage of MBG for human.
Q: How does mushroom beta glucan differ from vitamins in their respective functionality?
A: As a crucial component of our nutrients, vitamin acts by entering our cells and participating in the metabolic processes. Although vitamin can eliminate free radicals, scientists have found that excess amount of vitamins cause adverse effect to our health. For this reason vitamin is classified as a nutrition supplement. Comparatively, MBG has a molecular weight much larger than that of vitamins, and its functionality and the mechanism behind is also very different from that of vitamins. MBG needs to bind to the specific receptors on the surface of immune cells to trigger the activation of immune cells and strengthen our defense system. Because of such action, it is more appropriate to consider MBG a nutrient or functional supplement. Recent studies further revealed that taking MBG along with vitamin C has synergistic effect to the benefit of our health.
Q: How does mushroom beta glucan differ from prescriptive medicines?
A: Medicines are mostly manufactured through chemical processes, and upon taking them, we rely on our liver, digestive tracts and kidney to excrete them. Although medicines can destroy pathogens, at the same time they tend to be detrimental to our healthy cells if left in our organs. On the other hand, MBG is an organic polymer in natural form instead of from chemical synthesis. MBG can get into our blood swiftly and stimulate the immune system, meanwhile exert no detrimental effect to our cells. The excess amount of MBG will become the nutrients for probiotics in large intestine, or be removed by NKC in blood. There will be no side effect from taking MBG. Generally speaking, medicines trigger immediate remedy action. On the contrary, MBG acts gradually and has longer positive effect to our health.