Could mushrooms help improve high blood pressure?

A new study has found that adding mushrooms to your diet can improve high blood sugar levels.

For many, keeping up with heart health is a top concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States ahead of cancer and COVID-19 by finding ways to keep factors that affect heart health like high blood pressure or hypertension, in control are essential.

Now, new research has revealed that adding a commonly accessible ingredient to your diet could help lower blood pressure levels (shrooms). A review posted in Phytotherapy research highlights how incorporating edible mushrooms into the diet can improve hypertension.

The authors note that much has been written about the health benefits of these mushroom ingredients, but it has often been difficult to fully understand the role of mushrooms as dietary interventions to relieve hypertension and other cardiovascular malfunctions.

Among their findings, they explain that bioactive compounds contained in mushrooms such as cordycepin, lovastatin, erytadenine, and ergosterol are thought to directly influence gene expression that induces cardiovascular function due to the fact that they are structurally similar to, among other things, the adenosine chemical that can lower blood pressure.

When asked to put these findings into context, Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and author of the book recipe for survival, said Health that a serving of mushrooms for people who are not allergic at least could help lower blood pressure.

In the context of an otherwise unhealthy diet, it might not make a huge or significant difference in overall risk, she explained, but when added to a varied and overall healthy Mediterranean or DASH diet, it can help even more.

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In their review, the study authors write that edible mushrooms have long been known to be functional foods that serve as a rich bioactive resource, meaning they contain compounds that stimulate bodily actions that generate overall good health.

Bioactive foods have been studied as preventative tools for not only heart disease, but also cancer, among other conditions.

The review notes that mushrooms are often incorporated into heart-healthy approaches to dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean and Dietary to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets due to the fact that they contain bioactive substances such as proteins, sterols, vitamins, minerals, fiber food, and amino acids.

Dr. Hunnes added that mushrooms are known to contain a fair amount of potassium per serving. This would equate to about 11% of the DV (Daily Value), or between 300 and 400 mg. He explained that potassium is an important component of both the DASH and the Mediterranean diet as it can help regulate blood pressure, which in turn can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Mushrooms are being discussed as part of a healthy plant-based diet, not specific magic in managing hypertension, said Mary Ellen DiPaola, RD, CDE, IBCLC, UCSF senior ambulatory dietitian Health. Other non-nutritional lifestyle factors also play a significant role.

In reviewing the review, Dr. Hunnes highlighted the fact that 1 serving or 84 grams of raw edible mushrooms increased macronutrients (5%), dietary fiber (2% 6%), riboflavin (15%), potassium (11%), niacin (13% 26%), copper (13% 22%), vitamin D (9% 11%) and choline levels (14%).

These nutrients and bioactive components play a role in cellular metabolism, circulating levels of certain micronutrients that can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and blood pressure, such as potassium, she explained.

There are also a number of compounds, many of which may not yet have names, that contribute to the health benefits of mushrooms on the microbiome and/or blood pressure, Dr. Hunnes continued.

In the conclusions of their papers, the authors note that the bioactive properties of mushrooms could pave the way for pharmaceutical breakthroughs. They claim that these molecules could act as potential drug candidates that reduce hypertension, which also requires evidence from clinical pharmacology and biochemistry.

While all of this might sound promising, what if you\’re allergic to mushrooms?

DiPaola, who is also unaffiliated with the new research, noted that the DASH diet offers ingredients other than mushrooms that contain many of the same heart-health-promoting properties as the mushrooms outlined by the review: They are plant-based, contain adequate fiber, have less sodium, contain sufficient calcium and have moderate levels of protein.

There may be other mushrooms out there that can act similarly to edible mushrooms for people with mushroom allergies, suggested Dr. Hunnes. However, a plant-based, whole-grain diet often confers similar, healthy benefits.

If anything, the review sparks conversation about the many ways that what we consume can benefit our cardiovascular health, including lowering high blood pressure levels.

DiPaola recommends whole, plant-based foods, as evidenced by both the Mediterranean and DASH diets. Additionally, healthy lifestyle behaviors that include exercising, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing other comorbidities with heart disease are key.

The review authors clarify that mushrooms alone are not the only answer and that more research needs to be done to understand their bioactive compounds and their impact on hypertension.

Therefore, edible mushrooms have a large place in clinical evaluations requiring phylogenetic and toxicological analyzes of the bioactive constituents of mushrooms, concluded the authors. So next time you make mushroom risotto, appreciate the potential of biologically and nutritionally unique edible mushrooms.

For her part, Dr. Hunnes recommended a complete, nutrient-rich diet.

He said: A plant-based, whole-grain diet that varies in the types of plant foods consumed, especially avocados, nuts, seeds, legumes, greens, can be extremely beneficial for blood pressure and heart health.

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