Edible mushrooms and β-glucans

Edible mushrooms and β-glucans


by Chiara Cerletti 1, * , Simona Esposito 1 and Licia Iacoviello 1.2
1 Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, IRCCS NEUROMED, ​​86077 Pozzilli, Italy
2 Department of Medicine and Surgery, Research Center in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (EPIMED), University of Insubria, 21100 Varese-Como, Italy
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ashley J. Snider

Nutrients 2021 , 13 (7), 2195; https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/7/2195/htm 

Received: 10 May 2021 / Revised: 16 June 2021 / Accepted: 22 June 2021 / Published: 25 June 2021 (This article belongs to the Section Clinical Nutrition )


Mushroom cell walls are rich in β-glucans, long or short-chain polymers of glucose subunits with β-1,3 and β-1,6 linkages, that are responsible for the linear and branching structures, respectively. β-glucans from cereals, at variance, have no 1,6 linkages nor branching structures. Both immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of mushrooms have been described using purified β-glucans or fungi extracts on cellular and experimental models; their potential clinical use has been tested in different conditions, such as recurrent infections of the respiratory tract or complications of major surgery. Another promising application of β-glucans is on cancer, as adjuvant of conventional chemotherapy. β glucans may protect the cardiovascular system, ameliorating glucose, lipid metabolism, and blood pressure: these activities, observed for oat and barley β-glucans, require confirmation in human studies with mushroom β-glucans. On the other hand, mushrooms may also protect the cardiovascular system via a number of other components, such as bioactive phenolic compounds, vitamins, and mineral elements. The growing knowledge on the mechanism (s) and health benefits of mushrooms is encouraging the development of a potential clinical use of β-glucans, and also to further document their role in preserving health and prevent disease in the context of healthy lifestyles. Keywords: mushrooms ; β-glucans ; immune modulation ; cancer adjuvant ; microbiota ; cardiometabolic system ; healthy diet

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