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To Benefit From Mushrooms

22.03.2002


Mushrooms (of course, those grown in an ecologically safe area) accumulate many microelements good for human and animal health, in particular, selenium. The natural cycle of selenium was studied by a team from the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow.



The scientific expedition worked in the eastern part of the Meshchera (at the meeting point of the Moscow, Ryazan, and Vladimir areas). Scientists found selenium in many natural objects (soil, grass, leafs, elk`s excrements, mosquito larvae, and tissues of brown frog), however, its highest levels were observed in mushrooms. A concentration reached milligrams per kilogram of the mushroom weight, i.e., exceeded the selenium contents in other objects by three orders of magnitude.

Selenium is concentrated most significantly by "tubular" mushrooms (having an umbrella-shaped cap with spore-bearing tubules on the underside), and the record-holder is edible boletus - Boletus edilus. "Platy" mushrooms (with spore-bearing thin plates on the underside) of the genus Lycoperdon, Cantharellus, Agaricus, Lactarius, and Amanita are also enriched in selenium. A certain amount of selenium volatilizes upon mushroom drying, as was indicated by a considerable decrease in its content. This may be explained by the predominance of labile forms of selenium in the fungal tissues. This assumption is confirmed by the fact that selenium is easily extracted from fungi by acid and alkali solutions and also by water. Therefore, as one cooks some mushroom soup, most part of selenium goes into broth.


To investigate how the human organism assimilates fungal selenium and benefits from it, the scientists performed an experiment. Volunteers drank half a liter of the boletus broth. For the following week, their blood and urine were analyzed daily. The selenium concentration in blood increased in several hours, but remained unchanged in urine for several days. This points to the fact that selenium coming from fungi is accumulated by the human organism. Moreover, the hemoglobin concentration and the activity of glutathione peroxidase in the blood of those volunteers increased, which is indicative of the metabolism intensification.

However, why this element having a lunar name (Greek selene, moon) is needed for the organism? It is the component of many enzymes, most of which act as antioxidants. For instance, aforementioned glutathione peroxidase is contained in erythrocytes and induces the hydrogen peroxide reduction to water. Selenium-containing enzymes are necessary for various tissues and also control the thyroid function. Selenium is the obligatory element of vital proteins, e.g., selenoflagellin forming a spermatozoid tail. Selenium is incorporated into the protein molecule as selenocysteine, an amino acid. Selenium deficiency is the forerunner of serious diseases: the degeneration of the muscular tissues of men and cattle, heart disorders, kidney sickness, and even cancer, because a lack of selenium causes an increase in the mutation frequency. The risk of these diseases grows within regions, in which the natural environment and food are impoverished in selenium. In this case, it is advisable to take selenium-containing food supplements offered by the modern pharmacology. Yet the Russian scientists believe that delicious mushrooms boletuses are a perfect natural source of this element.

Nadia Markina | alphagalileo

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