Shiitake & Maitake: cholesterol management and metabolic health allies

Explore the benefits of shiitake’s eritadenine and maitake’s beta-glucans mushrooms as powerful supplements for cholesterol management and metabolic health. Learn about their properties, uses and optimal formulations.

Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms are gaining prominence in the nutraceutical industry for their potent health benefits, particularly in cholesterol management and metabolism control. These natural agents have been extensively studied for their bioactive compounds, which offer a range of therapeutic effects, making them valuable additions to dietary supplements aimed at improving cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Shiitake mushrooms: a nutritional marvel

The shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is an edible fungus native to East Asia, now cultivated and consumed worldwide., shiitake mushrooms thrive on decaying wood from deciduous forest trees of the warm and moist climates of Southeast Asia. Commercially, they are cultivated in environments mimicking their natural habitat, either on artificial substrates or hardwood logs. Recognized for its medicinal properties in various traditional medicines, fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms are also staples in East Asian cuisine, celebrated for their meaty texture and rich, umami flavour.

Shiitake mushrooms are rich in vitamins B and D, minerals such as selenium and zinc and bioactive compounds, including eritadenine, polysaccharides and sterols. While in Asia they have been traditionally used for centuries for their medicinal properties, they are now recognized for their potential in modern nutraceutical applications as well, due to their immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.

The hypocholesterolemic effect of Shiitake mushrooms is primarily attributed to eritadenine.  According to a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, eritadenine alters lipid metabolism by modulating the hepatic enzyme activities involved in cholesterol biosynthesis and degradation. The molecule works by inhibiting the activity of S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine hydrolase, enhancing the excretion of bile acids, which in turn reduces serum cholesterol levels by promoting the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids in the liver. This results in reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and total cholesterol in the bloodstream. (Sugiyama et al., 1995). Additionally, eritadenine has been shown to improve liver function and prevent fatty liver disease, further contributing to its cardioprotective effects.

Health benefits and applications

    • Hypocholesterolemic activity: As mentioned, the presence of eritadenine in Shiitake mushrooms is primarily responsible for their cholesterol-lowering effects.
    • Immune support: Shiitake mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which enhance immune function by activating macrophages and natural killer cells (Hobbs, 2000).
    • Antioxidant properties: they are rich in antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin D and ergothioneine, which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.

Maitake mushrooms: enhancing metabolic health

Maitake mushrooms (Grifola frondosa) belonging to the basidiomycete fungus family Polyporaceae. They are primarily found in north-eastern Japan and northern China, where they grow in clusters at the base of oak trees, reaching up to 50 cm in diameter and 45kg in weight. Known for their rippling, flowery appearance, they are sometimes referred to as “dancing mushrooms” due to their resemblance to dancing butterflies.

Nowadays cultivated in the northern temperate forests of Asia, Europe and North America, maitake have been consumed for ages in China and Japan, prized for its reputed therapeutic properties.

Maitake contain a unique polysaccharide called beta-glucan, specifically the D-fraction, which has been shown to have significant effects on metabolic health. Beta-glucans are indigestible polysaccharides found in the cell walls of fungi, algae and other plant life. Recent scientific research has highlighted how beneficial these polysaccharides are for overall health, positively affecting the gut microbiota and the immune system, as they modulate and enhance the immune system’s responsiveness to attacks from external viruses and bacteria. Beta-glucans are particularly interesting because they are highly flexible, have very low digestibility, but are favourably metabolized by the gut microbiota, especially by bifidobacteria, which are valuable allies of our large intestine. By influencing the gut microbiota, these polysaccharides also affect metabolic functions, particularly by helping balance bad cholesterol levels, reducing sugar absorption, controlling blood sugar levels and positively modulating inflammation and the immune system.

Research published in The Journal of Nutrition found that maitake polysaccharides improve glucose and lipid metabolism, which helps in controlling cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome (Yang et al., 2001). The study also noted that maitake extract can enhance peripheral insulin sensitivity, further supporting metabolic health by reducing blood triglyceride levels, total cholesterol and free fatty acids.

Health benefits and applications

    • Hypoglycemic effects: Maitake mushrooms improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose levels, making them beneficial for managing diabetes and metabolic syndrome (Mizuno, 1999).
    • Cholesterol management: The beta-glucans in Maitake mushrooms help reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestines and promote the excretion of bile acids, thereby lowering blood cholesterol levels (Kubo & Nanba, 1996).
    • Immune modulation: Maitake also boosts the immune system, enhancing the body’s defence against infections and chronic diseases.

Formulative tips

When formulating dietary supplements, combining shiitake and maitake extracts can enhance their hypocholesterolemic and metabolic benefits. The combined effects of these ingredients can provide comprehensive support for cholesterol management and overall health.

A daily intake of 500 to 1000 mg of MicoDry® Shiitake and beta-glucan-rich MicoDry® Maitake extracts can provide significant health benefits, including cholesterol reduction and immune support. Furthermore, MicoDry® Shiitake in such quantities ensures an assumption of 5 to 10 mg of eritadenine, the suggested daily dose considered clinically effective in lowering cholesterol levels (Sugiyama et al., 1995).

Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms offer a powerful combination for managing cholesterol levels and enhancing metabolic health. Their bioactive compounds work synergistically to provide hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic and immune-modulating effects. For nutraceutical formulations, using standardized extracts such as MicoDry®, ensuring bioavailability and combining with complementary ingredients can maximize their therapeutic potential. By incorporating these ingredients into well-formulated supplements, manufacturers can provide consumers with effective, natural solutions for maintaining cardiovascular and metabolic health.