The shiitake mushroom contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Hypolipidemic and anti-thrombotic substances have been identified; the nucleic acids induce interferon production. Reputed antitumor components vary in chemical nature, but the most important may prove to be a polysaccharide that acts as a host defense potentiator. The ability of the shiitake to lower blood cholesterol was first reported by Kaneda and Tokuda (1966), who found that a diet supplemented with the dried ground sporophores of L. edodes lowered average plasma cholesterol when fed to rats. As shiitake mushrooms are a rich source of dietary fiber, scientists fed rats a standard control diet and one containing cholesterol, along with whole shiitake or neutral detergent fiber (NDF) extract. The eritadenine-free NDF had a cholesterol-lowering effect distinct from that of eritadenine, which was attributed to its ability to bind to cholic acid salts.
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