New report highlights mushrooms’ role as a super food for immunity

By 2026, report predicts we will see the emergence of food enriched with mushrooms for immunity

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17 August 2021 | 0

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As human consumption of mushrooms hits record growth 24% YOY, The UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers association has unveiled a new report: ‘Mushrooming’ the future of Mushrooms for Immunity: People and Planet’.

The new report sets out the ancient history of the mushroom to recent discoveries during Covid-19 times of the vegetable’s role to play in delivering immunity for people and the planet. This includes five predictions for how mushrooms will be used for the immunity of humans, to help save the planet, and how human mushroom consumption could look in as little as five years.

“Although mushrooms can be traced back 500 million years, now more than ever, they have a key role to play in helping people live healthier lives and to protect our immunity,” said Noel Hegarty, a spokesperson from The UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers.

“Mycelium is Earth’s natural regenerator,” he added. “We believe a deeper understanding of this natural material has the potential to profoundly impact the future of our health and our planets’.”

Five key findings include:

  1. Human immunity: By 2026 we will see the emergence of food enriched with mushrooms for immunity.

Mushrooms are the superfood at the heart of the recent nutritional awakening due to their ability to help with everything from weight management and oral health to reducing our risk of developing cancer, managing our cholesterol levels, and ensuring our immune systems are in the best possible shape.

Known to convert sunshine or ultraviolet light into vitamin D, an essential factor in our immune health, this year we have seen the rise of functional mushrooms, such as those exclusive to M&S, grown in Somerset, high in vitamin D with an added boost of vitamin B6, to help support the immune system, reduce tiredness and fatigue.

Mushrooms are rich in selenium, required by the body for the normal functioning of the immune system and healthy thyroid function. Selenium also works as a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect against the damage caused by excess free radicals which can damage cells and increase the risk of disease.

Evidence now suggests mushrooms can support healthy immune and inflammatory responses by interacting with the microbes in our gut, both enhancing our adaptive immunity and strengthening the function of our immune cells.

  1. Food for immunity: from burgers to beer, we will continue to ingest mushroom nutrients in new ways.

Driven by a combination of environmental concerns and health awareness, many people are reducing their meat intake and switching from animal proteins, high in unhealthy compounds, to meat-free substitutes such as mushrooms.

As our understanding of the huge potential of mushrooms increases, a plethora of new companies are emerging to satisfy (and stimulate) growing demand for edible alternatives that can support health while reducing environmental impacts of our food. The Mighty Mushroom Co was created to bring a range of mushrooms supercharged with vitamins and minerals that boost immunity and is shaking up the meat-free market.

For those on a low salt diet, mushrooms can offer a helping hand. “As mushrooms have a distinctive umami flavour profile, products which have a high mushroom content needs less additives such as salt,” said Noel Hegarty, spokesperson for the UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers.

And a raft of new ’functional drinks’ – boosting our immunity and gut health – are in the process of taking the drinks market by storm as we strive to keep illness at bay.

  1. Vitamin D: We will develop a deeper understanding of the anti-inflammatory and immune modulating functions of mushroom components.  

We get most of our supplies of vitamin D from sunlight, which is why our intake fluctuates throughout the year. The UK Department of Health and Social Care recommends that we take a supplement of 10mcg per day during the winter in order to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D.

It is almost impossible to get all the vitamin D you need from your diet, because it is only found in a select few foods such as mushrooms, sources of this critical vitamin. However new technology that exposes commercially grown mushrooms to additional UV light means we can now find mushrooms supercharged with Vitamin D in local stores.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin and Jude Wilson PhD Chief Scientific Officer, Research and Development at mBio are collaborating to develop a deep understanding of the anti-inflammatory and immune modulating functions of mushroom components.

  1. Planetary immunity: We will use the power of fungi to protect and restore soils and natural habitats.

Industrial farming methods are disrupting that rich ecology with pesticides and fertilisers however Mycorrhizal fungi, coined ‘ecosystem engineers’, have been found to aid in the decomposition of organic matter, facilitate nutrient cycles and the storage of carbon.

Researchers have even discovered bug-eating fungi, natural insecticides – protecting soil health and boosting biodiversity, while also removing the pests, or the few ‘bad’ microbes, from agriculture3.

The power of fungi to protect and restore soils isn’t exclusive to agricultural land, either. World-changing organisations, such as CoRenewal, are working to harness the power of mushrooms as nature’s mop – mycelial networks to restore biodiversity and natural habitats that have been damaged by environmental disasters such as forest fires or oil spills.

“Disrupt the ecology of microbes that live in your gut, and your health will suffer – a growing number of human diseases are known to arise because of efforts to rid ourselves of ‘germs’. Disrupt the rich ecology of microbes that live in the soil – the guts of the planet – and the health of plants too will suffer,” said Merlin Sheldrake, the author of Entangled Life.

Meanwhile a growing number of species have been found to ‘eat’ plastic waste, breaking it down into organic matter within weeks rather than decades. Not only can these incredible organisms munch on plastic; they can replace it, too.

  1. Fungi Furniture: In the future, mushrooms will be used to make everyday office furniture to coffins.

Mushrooms continue to be a huge source of inspiration for many modern solutions. Mycelium bricks which fuse together could be the future of construction while mycelium is being turned into fashion and furniture including stools and lampshades.

Organisations such as MycoWorks have developed a ‘mushroom leather’ by engineering and compressing mycelium in order to create a ‘biomaterial’ replica. Ecovative has developed compostable mycelial packaging that can replace polystyrene. Loop of Life has created mycelium coffins, that speed up the natural decomposition process – embracing the circle of life, returning us to mother nature.


AT A GLANCE

New report reveals the top five ways mushrooms will play a role in protecting our immunity in 2026:

  • Humans and immunity: from the ancient use of mushrooms as medicines to immune-boosting everyday mushrooms converting light into vitamin D, an essential factor in our immune health.
  • Food for immunity: how we will be ingesting mushroom’s vital nutrients, from supplements and burgers to drinks. Low in calories, high in nutritional value and considered to be brain boosters.
  • Vitamin D: how vitamin D enhances our adaptive immunity and function, and a three-year study currently underway to explore the health benefits of Vitamin D in mushrooms.
  • Planetary partners: vertically farmed in forgotten urban spaces, to plastic munching, how mushrooms are leading the smart farming revolution, secretly saving the health of our planet.
  • Furniture to Martian mycelium: how mushrooms are being used to make furniture, coffins and to create habitats on lunar missions; mycelium – the compostable material that knows no bounds.

View the full report ‘Mushrooming’ the future of Mushrooms for Immunity: People and Planet by The UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers at www.mushroomsaremagic.co.uk.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram @mushroomsaremagic.


 

 

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