Foodwatch with Glenn Cardwell

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Mushrooms and cancer

Glenn Caldwell

Mushroom eaters get many health benefits (one serve provides more than 20% of our daily needs of the essential nutrients riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, copper and selenium). Back in October 2008, GI News reported on a US study that found mushrooms to be an ideal way to cut calories without losing out on flavour or a sense of fullness. Now the mushroom is showing itself to be a tasty way of stacking the odds in our favour against developing the top two cancers that hit non-smokers.

If you are a non-smoker, then, statistically speaking, the cancer you are most likely to get is either breast or prostate cancer, each of which kill around 3000 Australians every year (compared to 7,500 people dying of lung cancer). Yet a solution could be a close as your local supermarket. According to a report from the University of Western Australia published in the March issue of the International Journal of Cancer, one of our most popular foods could greatly reduce your risk of getting these cancers.


Mushrooms good to breasts Researchers, led by Dr Min Zhang, studied 1000 Chinese women with breast cancer and compared them to 1000 control women without cancer. Their findings reveal that those women who consumed the most fresh mushrooms were around two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer in comparison to those that didn’t eat mushrooms. There was a further risk reduction if they also drank a cup of green tea each day.

You may be thinking that the women in the study were eating exotic mushrooms that we rarely see in the supermarket. Not so. The most common mushroom consumed was the button mushroom, and 10 g (about 1/3 oz) or one small mushroom a day was enough to lessen the chance of breast cancer.

Mushrooms good to prostates too Earlier research published in the journal Cancer Research in 2006 has revealed that unique compounds in mushrooms inhibit two enzymes – aromatase and 5-alpha reductase – which encourage the progression of both breast and prostate cancer respectively in mice. The results have proved so encouraging that funding has just been granted to conduct human studies in the US to observe the effect of mushrooms in those who have had breast or prostate cancer.

First human research The study by Dr Zhang was the first human research showing a link between button mushrooms and a lower risk of breast cancer. A previous Korean study looking at other types of mushrooms also noted a link between mushrooms and a lower risk of breast cancer.

So, start stacking the odds in your favour with Johanna Burani’s Pappardelle con funghi or Diane Temple’s Mushroom minestrone with barley in this month’s GI News.

Glenn Cardwell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian consulting to the mushroom farmers of Australia. More information on mushrooms is available at Make sure you check out Glenn’s website.