Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms have an amino acid limited in the diet: Penn State

Snow Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms can have significant amounts of an amino acid that experts suggest is a “longevity vitamin”.

Ergothioneine, known as ERGO, is an amino acid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential, according to PhD researchers at Penn State University. They said in 2020 that ERGO was gaining more attention among scientists as a result, and because it is not found in many dietary sources. Mushrooms – especially Oyster mushrooms – have been found to possess high amounts of ERGO, according to the publication.

Humans and animals can only obtain ERGO through their diet. The researchers suggested mainly only some fungi produce ERGO and the mycelium spreads it to other plants.

Bags of Shiitake mushroom blocks are ready to fruit. Shiitake mushrooms are supposed to have high levels of ERGO, according to Penn State University.

The Snow Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus Ostreatus) had an estimated 1310 milligrams per kilogram of ERGO, more than double the amount of the White Button mushroom, according to a 2017 study at Penn State. Shiitake mushrooms have similar amounts of ERGO as the Snow Oyster mushrooms as well, said a 2019 Penn State study. Mushrooms have significantly more amounts of ERGO than other foods, such as oats, kidney beans and chicken liver, said the 2020 article. It also said tempeh had 201 milligrams per kilogram of ERGO, which is possibly because a fungus is used to ferment the soybeans to make the food.

The issue is that many North Americans are not getting much ERGO in their diet, said the researchers. Americans had less ERGO in their diets than residents in Italy and three other European countries, according to a study in France. This could be because mushrooms have not been as consumed in North America as countries overseas.

ERGO is suggested to be a “longevity vitamin” despite not meeting the classic idea of a vitamin. While not having enough of a classic vitamin could lead to health problems, the researchers argue that ERGO may help support long-term health. This is because of its antioxidant potential, which is supposed to help protect cells from free radicals – unstable molecules that can cause damage when there are too many.

In the future, the researchers at Penn State want to see how agricultural practices affect the development of mycelia in the soil and the spread of ERGO to other plants.

Disclaimer: The information about health benefits in this article is for educational purposes only and has not yet been evaluated by Health Canada or the FDA. Mushrooms are not intended to replace any medical treatment.

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