Mushrooms for the Heart: Which Mushrooms Can Work Against Atheroma?

14 minutos

Coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases are among the most common cause of mortality. They have rooted in chronic damage of the blood vessels, which brings about atheroma. While genetics and family history can increase the risk of patients having atherosclerotic diseases, many factors are preventable. It’s the case of tobacco smoking, alcoholic beverage drinking, and an overall unhealthy lifestyle. In addition to this, the current culture calls for a less active lifestyle. People have to sit more than eight hours a day without any physical activity. This increases the body mass index of patients, offsetting the lipid profile of the patient. Consequently, it increases the depositing plaque in the arteries.

Atheroma Formation

As the combination of risk factors accumulate in the patient’s lifestyle, the hyperlipidemia, toxins, and genetic factors all add up. And they damage the lining of the blood vessels. This damage will be adherent to lipoproteins, especially the low-density lipoprotein (LDL). We know LDL as the bad cholesterol. The monocytes, which will be activated to macrophages, will engulf fats that get stuck in the damaged lining, forming foam cells. This would further collect inadvertent cells, including blood cells and platelets. This will grow and eventually chip off the blood vessels thus circulating the plaque, which can get dislodged in the narrower arteries. Especially in the heart and the brain. Ultimately, this causes the deadliest diseases of coronary artery disease and ischemic stroke.

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Altogether, atheroma formation has precipitated the most fatal diseases through a combination of preventable factors and mechanisms. These mechanisms could have received proper intervention before it had done irreversible damage. The pharmacologic intervention has been recommended to deal with the disease. Medications can prevent the cascade of future illnesses that can appear further. But this is not without adverse effects. That is why mycotherapy is currently studied to address these concerns, while effectively managing atherosclerosis. 

Mycotherapy for Atheroma

There are limitations to the standard pharmacotherapeutic approach. And mycotherapy offers a promising solution by utilizing several evidence-based treatments. Using bioactive substances from selected fungi that have been found to reduce the pathologic process of atheroma. One of the beneficial properties of mushroom extracts is their capabilities against atheroma and atherosclerosis. These were elicited from 20 Korean species of mushroom. Actually, 10 to 13 species have shown a lowering of the lipid levels and thus exhibited positive results.  

These therapeutic potential has been studied in certain species including the shiitake, Portobello, and oyster mushrooms. all of these mushrooms are accessible through local markets. They are known to be kitchen staples. This study has shown a decrease of up to 65% reduction in total cholesterol, up to 70% decrease in triglycerides, and up to half of the LDL levels


Owing to our ancestors who included this in the first few mushrooms to be cultivated, the shiitake mushrooms were both taken for sustenance and therapeutic benefits. The mushroom helps in reducing cholesterol and it protects our heart. It can also prevent further cardiovascular complications.

The bioactive substance responsible for its efficacy against atherosclerosis is the eritadenine, which is markedly increased in Shiitake mushroom extracts. This regulates the fat metabolism in the liver and helps reduce blood cholesterol. With fewer the adverse effects compared to pharmacologic statins. 

atheroma mushrooms
In photo: Shiitake mushrooms. Source:


Also known as the “king of mushrooms,” the Maitake was once known as an important medicinal mushroom. Current studies show that this mushroom helps in improving immunity. It also helps the regulation of blood pressure, and overall has the potential to decrease body weight.

Oyster Mushrooms

The fruiting body of this mushroom, has been studied for its potential for managing atherosclerosis from the extracts. These extracts prevent hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and activity of reactive oxygen species. Their fruiting body or mycelium provides these extracts. 

atheroma maitake
In photo: Maitake mushrooms. Source:

A bioactive substance central to the cholesterol-lowering effect of oyster mushrooms is the lovastatin. This inhibits the synthetic enzyme of cholesterol, similar to the activity of other statins.

atheroma oyster mushrooms

Mushrooms’ Bioactive Compounds Against Atheroma

Among the substances found in mushrooms responsible for an anti-atherogenic effect, we can include the ACE inhibitors peptide, ergothioneine, chrysin and the well-known lovastatin

Lovastatin (also called Mevinolin or Monacolin K), is a known pharmacological statin isolated from Pleurotus mushrooms. It is also highly concentrated in Lion’s mane mushroom. This compound is a potent inhibitor of the HMG Coa reductase enzyme, which controls cholesterol production. Eritadenine has also found to change the way lipids reach the liver. In addition to these, beta-glucans, which are the main soluble fibers of mushrooms, interfere too with the absorption of lipids. This decreases the incidence of hyperlipidemia, a highly important factor in the progression of atherosclerosis. 

The researchers have assessed the results of mushroom extract intervention by the level of metabolic markers. It includes total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and lipids. All of which are decreased due to inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase. Besides these, other biomarkers are assessed. For example: homocysteine, systolic pressure, homeostatic physiology, and oxidative and inflammatory damage. The last one can elicit antioxidant activity that also reduces the progression of atherosclerosis.

Presented mushrooms and their respective bioactive substances fight atheroma. But it is also important to add to the list other well-known nutrients. Selenium, potassium, and vitamin D. These have been studied for their potential in maintaining cardiovascular health and can be found in fungi too.

Therefore, the use of mushrooms in nutraceuticals deliver these bioactive compounds. And, if taken as adjuvants together with conventional treatments against atheroma, they can alleviate the global population risk of cerebrovascular and coronary artery diseases. 

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Hania is a Mycotherapy specialist with an extensive background in the Natural Medicine field. She is qualified Naturopath, master coach, a life alignment healer and teacher, and she has worked with thousands of clients for many years as a traditional Chinese medicine acupuncturist, wellness consultant, and healer. She has developed a passion for food as medicine, functional plants and mushrooms. After years of clinical practice in acupuncture in London, Melbourne and the South East Asia, Hania returned to the UK where she works as a Mycotherapy specialist and coach.