More than 2000 species of medicinal and edible mushrooms have been discovered to date, many of which are consumed widely and have been the subject of extensive research(1) into their potential health benefits. These traits are connected to the bioactive substances they produce, like polysaccharides in mushrooms.
Even though beta glucans are thought to be the main bioactive mushroom polysaccharides, other types of mushroom polysaccharides also have biological effects. In addition to specific anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and anti-viral effects, they have been reported to have anti-diabetic and anti-obesity properties, demonstrating their potential to promote multiple health conditions.
Mushroom polysaccharides also have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and immunomodulating activities. This has led health and wellness professionals to emphasize mushrooms as a nutraceutical—a food with therapeutic properties.
The polysaccharides act as prebiotics in the digestive system providing gut flora support. They also boost the immune system, metabolic and heart health, and elevate mood and energy. These beneficial compounds also assist the body's natural response to aging and inflammation.
So, let’s talk about mushroom polysaccharide benefits. But first, understanding polysaccharides is crucial.
What Are Mushroom Polysaccharides?
Carbohydrates, the chains of sugars made of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms, are known as saccharides. The prefix "saccharides" denotes the number of sugar molecules linked together: mono means one, di means two, and poly means many.
Glycans also referred to as polysaccharides, are chains of numerous sugars. Some are structural, while others serve as storage. There are three specific polysaccharides:
- First, starch is the central molecule that plants use to store their energy.
- Second, glycogen is the primary molecule used by animals to store energy.
- Finally, cellulose is a component of a plant, algae, and some bacterial cell walls.
When consumed, digestible polysaccharides act as a source of energy. In addition, dietary fiber from indigestible polysaccharides promotes healthy gut flora and aids in the digestion of food.
We will now focus specifically on the polysaccharides that are present in fungi. Glycogen will be present in small amounts in fungi, but beta glucans are the main polysaccharides. Although beta glucans can take many different forms, the primary type found in fungi is known as (1-3) (1-6) beta-d-glucans and has 1-3, 1-6 branching.
Benefits Of Mushroom Polysaccharides
When considering the advantages of mushrooms, beta-glucans receive most of the attention. Here are the potential health benefits of beta glucan polysaccharides from mushrooms:
Support For Immune Function
Beta-glucans from mushrooms may act as biological response modifiers to support and activate the body's natural defenses against bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, and other pathogens by boosting the innate and adaptive immune systems.
These polysaccharides have been suggested as a "nutritional fuel" for the immune system based on hundreds of studies that have been completed and others that are currently being conducted.
Support For Gut Flora
Because many of the bonds holding polysaccharides together cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes, indigestible mushroom carbohydrates may function as prebiotics in the digestive system. This fiber facilitates the passage of food through the digestive tract while providing food for the beneficial microorganisms necessary for a balanced gut microbiome.
Many studies have examined the effects of Lion's mane, Reishi, and Maitake mushroom powder. They were found to have benefits for the gut microbiome, such as:
- Support for the development of helpful bacteria.
- Promotion of diversity in microorganisms.
- A reduction in dangerous bacteria.
- Increase in the population of the bacteria that make short-chain fatty acids.
Support For The Body's Natural Anti-Inflammatory And Anti-Aging Response
Functional mushroom polysaccharides and indolic and phenolic compounds, fatty acids, mycosteroids, vitamins, carotenoids, and biometals support the body's capacity to reduce inflammation. In addition, mushrooms' anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may aid the body's fight against disease and early aging.
Support for Mood And Energy
Fatigue can be reduced with the aid of polysaccharides found in functional mushroom species like Cordyceps and Lion's mane. Lion's mane has also shown the ability to lower anxiety and lift the mood when used frequently.
Heart Health And Metabolic Support
Mushrooms can support metabolic and heart health by helping lower blood pressure and maintain normal triglycerides, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
For instance, Maitake contains beta glucan polysaccharides, antioxidants, minerals like potassium and copper, vitamins B and C, amino acids, and fiber. They are highly valued for supporting normal metabolic function. The maintenance of heart health depends on a healthy metabolism.
High Polysaccharides—Are They A Quality Indicator?
Given all the benefits of fungal polysaccharides, you may be tempted to pick up a mushroom supplement with high numbers of polysaccharide content on its labels. But is it really an impressive thing?
The alpha-glucan family of polysaccharides is another polysaccharide commonly found in mushroom products. These include substances like starch, dextran, pullulan, and glycogen.
Many mushroom products contain alpha-glucans, not beta-glucans, as their primary polysaccharide.
Grains, rice, and corn are abundant sources of alpha-glucans. Unscrupulous and mass-production growers use these foods as substrates for mushroom growth. The mushrooms readily absorb the starch as they grow and eventually end up in the finished mushroom product, increasing the levels of polysaccharides and creating the illusion of nutritional value.
Therefore, the number of beta-glucans, as opposed to the total amount of polysaccharides, is the most crucial and valuable information in a medicinal mushroom product.
What Are Polysaccharides In Lion’s Mane?
Beta glucans are the polysaccharides that play some of the most significant roles in Lion’s Mane mushroom extracts. They are known to combat infection, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Additionally, research has shown that beta glucans have anti-cancer and immunomodulating properties.
Are Beta Glucans The Same As Polysaccharides?
Beta glucans are naturally occurring polysaccharides. The cell walls of some pathogenic bacteria and fungi contain these glucose polymers. For thousands of years, eastern nations have been aware of mushrooms' curative and immune-boosting abilities.
Do Mushrooms Have Polysaccharides?
Polysaccharides are an essential component of mushrooms. Consequently, their bioactive properties have been intensively studied during the past two decades.
Mushroom polysaccharides are the most well-known and potent fungal-derived compounds with immunomodulating and antitumor properties. They support gut flora, mood, and energy levels. Polysaccharides also have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.
Checking for beta-glucans rather than just polysaccharides is critical when purchasing mushroom extracts and other mushroom products. This ensures your medicinal mushroom supplement's best quality, potency, and purity.
Mushroom Polysaccharides: Chemistry and Antiobesity, Antidiabetes, Anticancer, and Antibiotic Properties in Cells, Rodents, and Humans.