Shiitake Helps Recover Exercise-Induced Skeletal Muscle Damage?

The active agent that gives the shiitake mushroom its antioxidant properties is L-ergothioneine. Because of the shiitake mushrooms’ antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and regenerative characteristics, researchers at the University School of Physical Education in Poland set out to discover the effect of these activities on healthy men with exercise-induced skeletal muscle damage.

A common ingredient found in the culinary dishes of Asia, shiitake mushrooms, are also used as a form of alternative medicine for cancer patients and as prevention for ailments such as influenza, West Nile virus and bacterial infections.

Scientific studies have shown that shiitake mushrooms have antibacterial properties that can enhance functioning of the immune system and even help prevent cavities. However, the researchers in Poland report that their study is the first to study the antioxidant role of ergothioneine in human subjects for skeletal muscle damage.

Researchers A. Zembron-Lacny, M. Gajewski, M. Naczk and I. Siatkowski believe that shiitake has the ability to regulate hydrogen peroxide, nitric oxide and cytokine levels after a period of intense exercise, alleviating the effects of muscle damage through skeletal muscle regeneration.

For the crossover experiment, 14 healthy males participated. Two times a day for 10 days before the exercise trial, the participants were to ingest 700 mg of shiitake mushroom extract or a placebo. The exercise session consisted of a 90-minute run and a 15-minute eccentric phase on a treadmill. Blood samples were taken before and after exercise.

The effect of shiitake on skeletal muscle damage after prolonged exercise

After evaluating various plasma levels, the researchers found no difference in effect between shiitake and placebo on cytokine activity and immune cells number after exercise. This suggests that shiitake does not help recovery by skeletal muscle regeneration. However, the antioxidant properties of shiitake were supported with a reduction in oxidized glutathione level and increase of thiol redox status.

Overall, the findings show shiitake does not affect the inflammatory response after prolonged exercise, but the mushroom is able to regulate levels of nitric oxide and thiol redox status using antioxidant action.

The scientists believe that the study’s inability to show shiitake’s inflammatory activities may be due to the low amount of ergothioneine in the treatment extract, so they suggest trials should be conducted with a more concentrated dose.


Celia Leung


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