Lions Mane Mushrooms Versus AHCC®: The Inside Scoop
It can be confusing to navigate the world of nutritional supplements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements differently than they do medications. When you’re getting medicine, the U.S. government has a process to verify the effects of that compound, the appropriate dosage, and the accuracy of the medicine’s claims. For supplements, the consumer is pretty much on their own to verify these things. So, unfortunately, many dishonest vendors pepper the internet with unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims of their own, rarely with any scientific evidence involved. Fortunately, we are here to give you a condensed version of the available information out there. Rather than making extravagant claims, we’re here to summarize the information available to make it just a little easier for you to navigate the supplement market and stay informed about the decisions you make.
AHCC® is a unique medicinal mushroom extract that is intended to strengthen the immune system and is commonly used in alternative medicine.
AHCC® is a special blend of various mushrooms and was developed in Japan in the 1980s. The supplement potentially possesses immune-boosting characteristics. AHCC® is not a species or type of mushroom, but instead, a collection of fungi extracts from the basidiomycetes group, including shiitake mushrooms, that derives the most useful compounds from these mushrooms and concentrates them.
AHCC® is obtained by using the mushroom mycelia of hybridized Shiitake mushrooms that are grown in rice bran. Some vendors may choose to add other ingredients to supplements to help with various objectives of the consumer.
AHCC® was discovered by Dr. Toshihiko Okamoto from the University of Tokyo. He developed the supplement in collaboration and aimed to convey the traditional perceived medicinal benefits that had existed in Japanese culture for hundreds or thousands of years. The process of manufacture breaks down the nutrients into more absorbable components to try and maximize the benefit to the human body.
Potential benefits of AHCC® according to various studies include: :
Immune System: AHCC® may help boost immunity.* According to a clinical trial study where healthy volunteers took either AHCC® or a placebo every day for four weeks; the AHCC® group showed an increase in the number of dendritic cells, which are integral to the human body's immune response.*
Digestive and Gastrointestinal Issues: AHCC® may be able to reduce unpleasant issues associated with the gastrointestinal tract, particularly with bowel discomfort by potentially having the ability to reduce inflammation.*
In some tests on animals, scientists found that AHCC® might help augment the body’s immune response. The research appeared to indicate that AHCC® could reduce the severity of the not feeling well and boost positive cells involved in the body's immune response, including natural killer cells, t cells, and dendritic cells, though results for humans are not yet precise.*
Mild side effects of AHCC® are always possible, including bloating, diarrhea, itching, foot cramps, and fatigue. Always consult your physician before making any adjustments to your daily supplements, including before you start taking a new one
Lions Mane Mushrooms
These are also known as Ho Tou Gu or Yamabushitake, and they are large, white, and shaggy mushrooms. They are called “Lion's Mane” due to their physical resemblance to a lion's mane. They are widely used in Asian cultures for both their culinary flavor and perceived medical value. They can be eaten raw, roasted, dried, or steeped in tea. Many describe their flavor as comparable to shellfish, and thus it is an ingredient commonly used in vegan dishes as a substitute for crab or lobster. The mushrooms contain significant amounts of bioactive substances thought to have plenty of health benefits.
- May Protect Brain Health: The brain needs to grow and form new connections continually. As we age, this ability tends to decline, and this results in reduced mental function and even severe memory loss. Clinical studies have found that lion's mane mushrooms contain two compounds, hericenones and erinacines, that are thought to stimulate the growth of brain cells. The extracts of the mushrooms have been shown to reduce symptoms of memory loss in mice.*
- May Have Anti-Anxiety Effects: Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States, with up to 20% of American adults suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder. These disorders can be crippling and can significantly reduce the quality of life for people who suffer from it. New research on animals found that lion's mane extract can alleviate some of the physical symptoms of anxiety through its anti-inflammatory properties.* Other studies suggest that compounds in the mushroom may help the functioning of the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain that processes memory and highly emotional responses. The improved functioning of this region of the brain is hypothesized as one of the primary reasons for these positive effects on anxious feelings and symptoms.
- May Support The Nervous System: The nervous system is one of the most critical systems in the body, and problems with it can lead to some of the most unpleasant symptoms that a human can suffer from. Spinal or brain injuries can be amongst the most devastating of all injuries and can significantly alter the lives of those who suffer from them. Research has found that compounds within the lion's mane mushroom may reduce recovery time from nervous system injuries.*
- May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease: Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease kills people at alarming levels. It is thought that Lion's Man can reduce the influence of some of these harmful factors and thus reducing the risk of heart disease.* One study found that rats with a high-fat diet who were given Lion’s Mane had significantly lower weight and triglycerides than the control group with the same food. Studies have also found that Lion's Mane can help prevent the oxidation of harmful cholesterol in the bloodstream.* Lion’s Mane mushrooms appear to benefit the cardiovascular system in multiple ways, but more studies on the effect on humans are necessary before anything conclusive can be stated.*
- May Help With Insulin Dysfunction: Dysfunction in how insulin works in the body is another chronic issue responsible for much suffering and high healthcare costs. Chronically high blood sugar levels resulting from insulin not functioning properly can cause severe complications such as kidney disease, nerve damage, limb amputation, vision loss, and even death. Lion's Mane is thought to be beneficial for this because it improves blood sugar control and may reduce unpleasant side effects.* Several studies have shown that Lion's Mane can reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy and affected mice, lowering blood cell sugar levels by preventing the cell activity of critical enzymes that break down carbohydrates and polysaccharides.* It also has been found to benefit mice with nerve damage caused by insulin dysfunction’s effects.
- May Reduce Inflammation: Inflammation is believed to be the root of many common illnesses and certainly can exacerbate existing ones. Research has shown that Lion’s Mane contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that can help to reduce inflammation.* Several animal studies found that Lion's Mane extract reduced inflammation in rodents.
- May Help Immune System: A robust immune system is one of the most valuable assets a person can have. Animal research shows that Lion's Mane mushrooms may boost immunity by supporting the intestinal system's efforts to protect the body from pathogens that are food-borne.
Mushrooms have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, and the risk of being exposed to toxins through carefully cultivated and sourced mushrooms is relatively low. Any supplement you take should be taken only after consulting your physician.
Medically reviewed by Jimmy Salas Rushford
MD, FAARFM, ABAARM, FMNM, MROCC
Written by Quality of Life – Updated on March 3, 2021
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