Background: The mushroom Agaricus blazei has evoked considerable scientific and practical interest in several fields, especially those linked to its medicinal properties. This review aims to summarize and evaluate the past decade findings related to nutritional and therapeutic uses of A. blazei, with especial emphasis on the most recent discoveries regarding its chemical composition and clinical investigations.
Methods: The specialized literature was searched for basic and clinical studies. The main isolated and identified compounds or fractions are described and confronted with their corresponding bioactivities.
Results: Basic research of high quality using ex vivo and in vivo conditions are quite abundant in the specialized literature, but ony 17 clinical studies and two case reports were found. A great number of active molecules have been identified, and they can be divided into three categories, (1) hydrophilic small molecules (e.g., phenolics), (2) lipophilic or partially lipophilic small molecules (e.g., agarol) (3) and macromolecules (e.g., β-glucans). At least the following bioactivities can be considered as being supported by experimental evidence: antioxidant activity (in aging or disease), immunomodulation and cell signaling, anti-inflammatory activity, antiparasitic actions, antimicrobial activity, anticancer effects and tumor growth inhibiting effects, antimutagenic activity, hepatoprotection against chemical or viral infection and antidiabetic activity.
Conclusion: The amount and quality of the evidence that has been accumulating during the last decade strongly speaks in favor of the health benefits of the ingestion of A.blazei or derived products. However, there are many uncertainties and limitations when attempts are made to extrapolate or to demonstrate their biological effects in the human organism in health or disease. Clearly, more clinical trials, using reliable statistical methods and standardized preparations are needed to establish the efficacy of A. blazei as a therapeutic agent.
Keywords: Agaricus blazei Murrill; beta-glucan; bioactive molecules; clinical studies; immunomodulation; medicinal properties.
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