Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a practice where plants and herbs play a large role in treating disease including medicinal mushrooms. TCM suggests that eating a few ounces of mushrooms every day could help prevent breast cancer. Dr. Shiuan Chen of the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, and colleagues tested seven vegetable extracts for their aromatase-blocking activity, and found that white button mushroom had the strongest effect. A substance found in mushrooms called linoleic acid inhibits aromatase–an enzyme that affects estrogen levels.
Aromatase is an enzyme that helps the body make estrogen. The ovaries are the major producers of estrogen in the female body and are needed for normal function in the child bearing years. When too much estrogen is produced or ingested from the food supply, problems occur.
High levels of estrogen are associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. These estrogen positive breast cancers account for approximately 70% of all breast cancers. Studies have shown that linoleic acid inhibits the proliferation of breast cancer cells in the lab along with reducing the occurrence of mammary cancers in rats.
Hormone therapies like Femara are called aromatase inhibitors. The researchers evaluated 10 other types of mushrooms, and found stuffing mushrooms, portobello, crimini, shiitake and baby button mushrooms also inhibited aromatase activity. This study and others like it suggest that mushrooms could be a form of natural therapy in lieu of aromatase inhibitors.
Although I try to incorporate mushrooms into my diet several times a week, I still take a mushroom supplement. Mushroom Supplements have been used for centuries throughout Asia but only recently has the extent of their benefits been recognized by Western countries. Not only do mushrooms inhibit aromatase activity, but they also strengthen the immune system.