Mycoprotein and cholesterol

A number of studies suggest that certain fungi species lower serum cholesterol in animals. In hypercholesterolaemic rats, the hiratake mushroom has been reported to lower serum cholesterol concentrations (Bobek et al. 1991) and this has also been demonstrated using fibre extracts from Maitake, Shiitake and Enokitake mushrooms (Fukushima et al. 2000).

Marks (2005) also notes that filamentous fungi (of which Fusarium venenatum is an example) are used in the production of statins – a class of drugs widely used to lower cholesterol among people with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease.

Unlike meat proteins, Mycoprotein is completely free from cholesterol, is low in fat and saturates and contains no trans fats. Mycoprotein also possesses a unique fibre, comprising about 25 per cent of its dry weight, composed mainly of polymeric n-acetyl glucosamine (chitin) and beta 1-3 and 1-6 glucans.

A number of studies suggest that Mycoprotein is associated with a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.

In one study(1), Turnbull and colleagues carried out a three week non-blinded randomised controlled metabolic study investigating the effects of consuming Mycoprotein daily on the cholesterol levels of 17 healthy adults with a baseline total cholesterol concentration of 5.2–6.2 mmol/L.

Subjects were free-living but all meals were consumed under supervision, with subjects in the intervention group consuming 191g Mycoprotein at lunch and dinner, in place of meat, for three weeks. 

Mycoprotein was consumed as commercially available products such as pies, breadcrumb coated pieces, or dishes containing Mycoprotein chunks, and subjects in the control group consumed quantities of meat and meat products of an equivalent calorific value.

The authors of the study reported a 13% reduction in plasma cholesterol in the intervention group, a 9% reduction in LDL cholesterol and a 12% increase in HDL cholesterol, compared with a 12% increase in LDL cholesterol in the control group and an 11% decrease in HDL cholesterol. 

When comparing the intervention group with the control group, the overall reduction in total cholesterol was 14.3%

The authors concluded "it is clear from these results that lipid variables are advantageously altered by mycoprotein consumption".

In a second study(2) researchers investigated the effects of Mycoprotein on blood lipid profiles of free living subjects consuming their normal diets, supplemented with Mycoprotein.

In this single-blind randomised placebo-controlled study, 21 subjects with a baseline total cholesterol concentration of >5.2 mmol/L followed a diet supplemented with either Mycoprotein-containing or soya-containing cookies.

Subjects in the intervention group consumed the equivalent of 130g of Mycoprotein per day in cookies, for eight weeks. In this group, total blood cholesterol concentrations fell by 15.9% on average during the eight weeks of the study; the reduction in cholesterol was most pronounced during the first four weeks of the study. An 8% reduction in total cholesterol was also seen in the control group during the first four weeks of the study, giving an overall reduction in total cholesterol of 8.2% when compared with the control group.

No significant changes in HDL cholesterol concentrations were observed in the study but LDL cholesterol decreased by 21.5% in the intervention group, compared with an 8.9% reduction in the control group, giving an overall reduction in LDL cholesterol of 12.8% when compared with the control group.

The authors concluded: "we are relatively confident that Mycoprotein exerts a beneficial effect on blood lipids."

Further research is required before any claim could be made for the cholesterol lowering properties of Mycoprotein but the results of those studies which have been conducted are promising.

The suitability of Quorn™ products for the treatment of a clinical condition should be the responsibility of a medical practitioner and we will provide clinical dieticians and physicians with relevant data to help them guide patients appropriately.

1. Turnbull WH, Leeds AR, Edwards GD. Effect of Mycoprotein on blood lipids, Am J Clin Nutr 1990;52:646-50
2. (Turnbull WH, Leeds AR, Edwards DG. Mycoprotein reduces blood lipds in free-living subjects, Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 55:415-9)