Can Mushrooms Lower Your Lipid Levels?

Robyn Mackenzie

Mushrooms are small or large fungi that have distinctive fruiting bodies and grow above or below ground. Edible mushrooms are increasingly becoming part of a healthy diet, and you have likely seen a few varieties of these in the grocery store or on the menu in your favorite restaurants. Although they are mostly used in cooking, some mushrooms have been used in Greek and Chinese traditional medicine to treat certain medical conditions, such as inflammation, fatigue or infection.

Because of their potential health benefits, mushrooms are often labeled as a “functional food”. There have also been a handful of studies that have looked the use of certain species of edible mushrooms in treating cardiovascular disease - including high cholesterol and triglycerides - and the results so far appear promising. 

How Do Mushrooms Stack Up?

Unfortunately, most of the studies used to examine the use of mushrooms in lowering high cholesterol or triglycerides have been performed on animals, such as rats, rabbits and mice. Most of these studies only examined shiitake (Lentinus edodes), Portobello (Agaricus bisporus) or oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) - some of the more popular mushrooms found in grocery stores and restaurants. These animals were fed a percentage of dried mushrooms in their diet over a period of one to two months. In some of these studies, it appeared that: 

  • Triglyceride levels were lowered by up to 70 percent.
  • LDL cholesterol levels were lowered between 5 and 54 percent.
  • HDL cholesterol levels did not appear to be affected in most studies. 

It's important to note that only a couple of studies looked at HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels, whereas most studies looked at the effect of mushrooms on total cholesterol levels.

Results examining individual species of mushrooms appeared to be dose-dependent, meaning the higher amount of mushrooms consumed would result in the largest reduction in lipids. Additionally, the most decreases in lipids were noted in animals also consuming a diet that was high in fat or cholesterol.

There are very few human studies examining the effect of mushrooms on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These studies are small and conflicting: 

  • In one study, five people ingested 10 to 15 grams of dried oyster mushrooms daily over a period of a month. This resulted in an average decrease in total cholesterol levels by up to 30 percent.
  • In another small study, 20 HIV-positive individuals with high lipid levels caused by antiretroviral therapy consumed 15 grams of freeze-dried oyster mushrooms daily for two months. At the end of the study, there was no significant effect on cholesterol levels - however, triglyceride levels decreased by an average of almost 19 percent.

Heart-Healthy Ingredients in Mushrooms

There appear to be a few ingredients found in mushrooms that may contribute to their lipid-lowering effects:

  • Beta-glucan, a form of soluble fiber, are found in various concentrations in mushrooms. It is thought that beta-glucan may interfere with the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.
  • Eritadenine, is thought to lower lipid levels by modifying the way certain lipids are made in the liver.
  • Mevinolin, another ingredient found in some mushrooms, functions by inhibiting HMG CoA reductase, a key enzyme used to make cholesterol in the body.

These cholesterol-lowering chemicals vary in amounts between different species of mushrooms and are currently being investigated as potential treatments for preventing heart disease.

Should I Add Mushrooms to My Diet?

Although some studies suggest that mushrooms may possess beneficial properties that may help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, more studies are needed to further investigate this. Despite the limited studies, mushrooms are high in fiber and protein and low in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat - making them a good food to include in your heart-healthy diet.

If you are looking for ideas on how to incorporate mushrooms into your cholesterol-lowering diet, there are plenty of ways to do this:

Tips on Including Mushrooms in Your Heart-Healthy Diet

Despite their potential health benefits, some mushrooms may contain toxins that can be harmful. To be safe, you should not consume mushrooms found in the wild unless you are absolutely sure that they are edible mushrooms. Varieties of edible mushrooms are found in your grocery store or local restaurants.


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