Mushrooms Can Provide as Much Vitamin D as Supplements, Researchers Say

Eating mushrooms may limit the need for supplements.

Mushrooms image via Shutterstock

Mushrooms image via Shutterstock

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered that eating mushrooms containing Vitamin D2 can be as effective at increasing and maintaining vitamin D levels as taking a supplement. These findings will be presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Microbiology annual meeting today in Boston. The research will also appear in the Dermato-Endocrinology online journal.

According to BUSM, vitamin D is crucial for good bone health and muscle strength. It also helps the body maintain bone density which reduces the risk of fracture, osteomalacia, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. The nutrient also plays an integral role in modulating the immune system to help fight infections like the flu and reduces the risk of many common diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and diabetes.

The study consisted of 30 healthy adults who were randomized to take capsules containing vitamin D2, vitamin D3, or mushroom powder containing vitamin D2 once a day for 12 weeks during the winter. After 12 weeks of the vitamin D supplements, the numbers were not significantly different than those who ingested the mushroom powder.

Michael F. Holick, MD, senior author of the study, says that mushrooms can be a good source of vitamin D. “These results provide evidence that ingesting mushrooms which have been exposed to ultraviolet light and contain vitamin D2, are a good source of vitamin D that can improve the vitamin D status of healthy adults,” he says. “Furthermore we found ingesting mushrooms containing vitamin D2 was as effective in raising and maintaining a healthy adult’s vitamin D status as ingesting a supplement that contained either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3.”

Holick says that some mushrooms when exposed to UVB light also produce vitamin D3 and vitamin D4. This can provide the consumer with at least two additional vitamin Ds. The researchers were able to determine how mushrooms make vitamin D2 and found that the process is similar to what occurs in human skin after sun exposure. They were also able to show that mushrooms not only produce vitamin D2, but can produce vitamin D3 and vitamin D4. So basically, mushrooms grown outside produce vitamin D from absorbing sunlight.

“Although it has been previously reported that mushrooms have the ability to produce both vitamin D2 and vitamin D4, through our own research we were able to detect several types of vitamin Ds and provitamin Ds in mushroom samples including vitamin D3 which is also made in human skin,” Holick says.