Mushrooms and Beta-Glucans

Beta-glucans, a type of polysaccharide found in bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and plants, help to regulate inflammation (e.g., by decreasing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines1) and activate or enhance the functional activity of various innate and adaptive immune cell populations, including macrophages, dendritic cells, and lymphocytes.2 In cancer, β-glucans may increase counts of M1-phenotype tumor-associated (antitumor) macrophages and decrease counts of M2-phenotype tumor-associated (protumor) macrophages.3 Lentinan, a fungal β-glucan constituent, has shown the ability to prolong cancer patient survival when combined with chemotherapy, compared to chemotherapy alone,4,5 and it has also been linked to reductions of systemic inflammatory markers, such as serum C-reactive protein and macrophage inflammatory protein-1α/chemokine C-C ligand 3, and increases in the anti-inflammatory response markers interleukin-4 and interleukin-10.6 Lentinan may also be useful for reversing hyperglycemia in the early and late stages of Type 1 diabetes.7

Pleuran, the β-glucan isolated from Pleurotus ostreatus, was found to reduce peripheral blood eosinophilia and stabilized serum levels of total immunoglobulin E in children with recurrent respiratory tract infections, which the study investigators suggest is due to its potential antiallergic effect.8 According to other research, supplementation with a β-glucan derived from Aureobasidium pullulans was effective for the prevention of influenza in mice,9 and β-glucan supplementation also led to reduced mortality in a mouse model of influenza.10 Finally, a comparative study of β-glucans from different sources determined that treating keratinocytes with a β-glucan derived from Schizophyllum commune promoted in-vivo wound closure.11


1. Um MY, Park JH, Gwon SY, Ahn J, Jung CH, Ha TY. Agaricus bisporus attenuates dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1383–1385.

2. Chi-Fung Chan GC-F , Chan WK, Sze DM-Y. The effects of beta-glucan on human immune and cancer cells. J Hematol Oncol. 2009;2:25.

3. Wang W-J, Wu Y-S, Chen S, Liu C-F, Chen S-N. Mushroom β-glucan may immunomodulate the tumor-associated macrophages in the Lewis lung carcinoma. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:604385.

4. Ina K, Furuta R, Kataoka T, et al. Lentinan prolonged survival in patients with gastric cancer receiving S-1-based chemotherapy. World J Clin Oncol. 2011;2:339–343. 

5. Oba K, Kobayashi M, Matsui T, Kodera Y, Sakamoto J. Individual patient based meta-analysis of lentinan for unresectable/recurrent gastric cancer. Anticancer Res. 2009;29:2739–2745.

6. Dai X, Stanilka JM, Rowe CA, et al. Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: a randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478–487.

7. Wu T, Cai Z, Niu F, et al. Lentinan confers protection against type 1 diabetes by inducing regulatory T cell in spontaneous non-obese diabetic mice. Nutr Diabetes . 2023 Apr 8;13(1):4.

8. Jesenak M, Hrubisko M, Majtan J, Rennerova Z, Banovcin P. Anti-allergic effect of pleuran (β-glucan from Pleurotus ostreatus) in children with recurrent respiratory tract infections. Phytother Res. 2014;28:471–474. 

9. Muramatsu D, Iwai A, Aoki S, et al. β-Glucan derived from Aureobasidium pullulans is effective for the prevention of influenza in mice. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41399.

10. Vetvicka V, Vetvickova J. Glucan supplementation enhances the immune response against an influenza challenge in mice. Ann Transl Med. 2015;3(2):22.

11. Seo G, Hyun C, Choi S, Kim YM, Cho M. The wound healing effect of four types of beta-glucan. Appl Biol Chem. 2019;62(20).    

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