Bioactive compounds studied for their interest in health care

Hifas da Terra medicinal mushrooms contain a natural full-spectrum balance of a wide variety of active biomolecules including beta-glucans, terpenes, free amino acids, sterols, lectins, vitamins and minerals, among others. They have numerous benefits for human health due to their immunomodulatory, prebiotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiallergic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, anticancer, antihyperlipidemic, and other properties (Venturella et al., 2021). These actions are attributable to a large number of bioactive metabolites present mainly in the fruiting body of medicinal mushrooms, the effects of which vary according to the chemical nature of each molecule. Depending on the fungal species, the quantity and distribution of these biomolecules varies also. Research to find new active biomolecules present in medicinal mushrooms is on the increase. The isolation, identification and characterisation of these molecules, as well as the definition of their mechanisms of action, is key due to the growing interest in the use of natural products both for healthy people or as adjuvants to traditional medical treatments.

Beta-glucans

  • Beta-glucans: are the most abundant natural polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms, which have shown beneficial effects for human health. They act as prebiotics and effective immunomodulators (Bulam et al, 2018). Beta-glucans reach the intestine undigested and are fermented by the intestinal microbiota there. The most important and most studied of these are branched Beta- (1→ 3,1 → 6)-D-glucans.
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Terpenes

  • Terpenes: are extremely versatile organic compounds, from a therapeutic point of view, with multiple health benefits.  Among their numerous actions, their anti-inflammatory  effects stand out (Dasgupta A et al, 2019) a s well as their potent antiviral capacity (Lin et al. 2015).  

    Mushrooms such as Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) contain more than 120 different triterpenes. Beta-glucans and Proteoglycans are the most varied active molecules contained in medicinal mushrooms. 

    Terpenes also stand out as antimicrobial molecules (Souza et al. 2011), against neurodegenerative diseases (Yoo and Park 2012), as well as for their antitumor effects (He et al. 2009; Rabi and Bishayee 2009; Nwodo et al. 2016),among other actions. 

    Since 2010, there has been a steady increase in the search for new therapeutic terpenes, as evidenced by frequent scientific articles reporting the isolation of novel terpenes (Dasgupta A et al, 2019). 

    Terpenes can be classified as monoterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, etc., depending on the number of carbon atoms they contain.

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hericenones and erinacines

  • Hericenones and erinacines: terpenoids from Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane). These are neurotrophic factors that contribute to the regulation of the gut-brain axis through their repairing action on the gastroesophageal mucosa and their extensive documented neuro-regenerating and neuroprotective activity. Both have been shown to promote NGF (Nerve Growth factor) and BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) synthesis as well as myelination of neurons (Ma, Bing-Ji et al., 2010 and Kolotushkina EV et al., 2003). 

Vitamins D2, D3 AND D4

  • Mushrooms are one of the only non-animal and vegan food sources of vitamin D. They can be considered the only unfortified culinary source of non-animal vitamin D that can provide an appreciable amount of vitamin D for vegetarians or vegans in a single serving (Cardwell et al., 2018). In fact, unlike other natural products, mushrooms are a source of several forms of vitamin D: significantly they provide bioavailable vitamin D2 but also vitamin D3 and vitamin D4. So taking them provides at least two additional forms of vitamins D (Boston University Medical Center, 2013). 

    It is proposed that vitamin D intake through mushrooms could contribute substantially to alleviating the global public health problem of vitamin D deficiency (Cardwell et al., 2018).

    Vitamin D can play an important role in many aspects of human health, from helping the body to heal from bone fractures, or defend against prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular problems and diabetes. Vitamin D is produced in the human body by the skin after absorption of sunlight, but as human lifestyle changes, the amount of exposure to sunlight has decreased, making dietary supplementation of vitamin D necessary (Kamweru PK., et al, 2016). 

Ergosterol

  • Ergosterol: unlike plants, fungi contain high concentrations of ergosterol (Cardwell et al., 2018). Ergosterol is the main sterol produced by fungi that exhibits antioxidant properties. Being a provitamin for D2 it is converted to vitamin D2 in the fungus itself with the contact of sunlight.  

Lectins

  • Lectins: glycoproteins present in medicinal mushrooms, mostly found in their fruiting body (Sing SS et al., 2014).  They have become the subject of numerous scientific studies. So far, many mushroom lectins have been identified, and in recent years they have attracted increasing attention due to their health promoting benefits including immunomodulatory, antiviral, antiproliferative, antitumor, and other actions (Sing SS et al., 2014). 

Vitamins B, C AND E

  • Vitamins B, C and E: medicinal mushrooms are a source of naturally occurring vitamins such as B vitamins (B1-thiamine, B2-riboflavin, B3-niacin, B9-folic acid, and B12-methylcobalamin); they also contain other vitamins of high importance for health such as vitamin C, D and E (Valverde ME et al., 2015). 

Minerals

  • Minerals: Medicinal mushrooms are a natural source of essential minerals including magnesium, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium (S. E. Mallikarjuna et al, 2013).

FREE AMINO ACIDS

  • Free amino acids: medicinal mushrooms contain a significant supply of free amino acids, which contribute to their nutritional value and potent antioxidant effects. They also contain the complete set of the essential amino acids (Nachshol Cohen et al., 2014). Leucine, valine, glutamine, glutamic acid and aspartic acid are the most abundant amino acids in medicinal mushrooms, which are also a source of GABA and ergothioneine, as detailed below. 

Gaba

  • GABA: an amino acid that is one of the most widely studied neurotransmitters. It can be found in naturally large quantities in some medicinal mushrooms (Lin, Shin-Yi, et al., 2013). GABA is known for its effectiveness as a relaxant, especially in situations of irritation, nervousness and insomnia, as well as for supporting neurocognitive functions.
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Ergothioneine

  • Ergothioneine: an organic compound composed of the amino acids histidine, cysteine and methionine. In recent years, ergothioneine has attracted attention because of its beneficial effects in modulating autoimmune disorders. In recent years, ergothioneine has also attracted attention for its antioxidant properties, such as in diseases characterised by high oxidation and cases of rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease (Halliwell, B et al., 2018). 

    According to scientific studies, a decrease in ergothioneine levels has been observed in some diseases such as chronic inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular disorders and ischaemia, suggesting that ergothioneine may play a key protective role in various pathological conditions (Tsiantas, K et la., 2021).

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: though medicinal mushrooms have a very low fat content in comparison with foods of plant and animal origin, they are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, beneficial to health, such as those of the omega-3 series) (Sande D. et al., 2019). These PUFAs mainly contribute to the nutritional value and cardiovascular and cognitive benefits of medicinal mushrooms. Their high content of PUFAs make medicinal mushrooms especially recommended for people with high cholesterol levels (González-Tijera et al., 2014).

Linoleic acid

  • Linoleic acid: is an essential fatty acid found in higher concentration in the fruiting body of medicinal mushrooms (Pelin G. et al, 2013). It belongs to the same family as omega-3 fatty acids, to the family of healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

NATURAL STATINS

  • Natural statins: the fruiting bodies of medicinal mushrooms are a valuable source of natural lovastatin, which belongs to the statin group, commonly used as cholesterol-lowering drugs. Due to the presence of lovastatin, medicinal mushrooms may be useful in the prevention of hypercholesterolemia (Kala et al., 2020).

cordycepin

  • Cordycepin: nucleoside analogue of adenosine, an endogenous purine (produced by the body itself) that is involved in numerous physiological processes. It has energising properties due to its adaptogenic nature and has shown benefits such as increasing endurance and blood oxygenation in physical exercise

    Cordyceps sinensis contains a high concentration of the active biomolecule cordycepin.  In addition to being known for its anti-fatigue action, it has antioxidant, immunomodulatory, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antitumor, anti-arthritic, anti-osteoporotic, and hormone-regulating effects as well as being useful in cases of infertility (Ashraf S.A. et al., 2020, Tianzhu Z et al, 2014).

References
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  • Boston University Medical Center. “Mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2013. 
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  • Dupont, Sebastien, et al. “Antioxidant Properties of Ergosterol and Its Role in Yeast Resistance to Oxidation.” Antioxidants 10.7 (2021): 1024.
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  • Tsiantas, K., Tsiaka, T., Koutrotsios, G., Siapi, E., Zervakis, G. I., Kalogeropoulos, N., & Zoumpoulakis, P. (2021). On the identification and quantification of ergothioneine and lovastatin in various mushroom species: Assets and challenges of different analytical approaches. Molecules26(7), 1832. 
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