Scientists have recently discovered that type II diabetes and insulin resistance is a defense mechanism to keep the body from being damaged from over-nutrition. Some species of mushrooms may help prevent the development of diabetes by decreasing the oxidative damage that generally occurs when we eat too much sugar and fatty foods and don’t exercise enough.
When we eat, the chemical constituents of our food are passed through a few metabolic pathways. Sugar for instance, goes through glycolysis and is transformed into a new chemical that is fed into the citric acid cycle followed by the electron transport chain. Throughout these pathways, the original food chemicals are deconstructed and electrons are stripped and used to power a mechanical pump that creates chemical energy. We eat largely to provide this pump with the electrons needed to power it.
If we eat too much and exercise too little, the electron transport chain becomes flooded with electrons, which are a key ingredient for making damaging free radicals. These free radicals can destroy cellular components and can even speed up the aging process. Diabetes occurs when the body ceases to pull sugars out of the blood stream and into our metabolic pathways. It is an attempt to reduce the electrons spilling off the electron transport chain to form free radicals. The only issue is that if sugar is left in the blood stream, it can reach dangerously high levels.
According to researchers¹’², reishi and turkey tail mushrooms contain complex carbohydrates that stimulate different antioxidant protein complexes that can significantly decrease oxidative damage. These mushrooms are very successful at limiting oxidative damage so much that they may keep the body from developing insulin resistance and diabetes. This also correlates to a stabilization of blood sugar levels. It is no wonder scientists are busy researching the potential use of these mushrooms in pharmaceuticals designed counteract diabetes.
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1) Jia, J., Zhang, X., Hu, Y., Wu, Y., Wang, Q., Li, N., et al. (2009). Evaluation of in vivo antioxidant activities of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides in STZ-diabetic rats. Food Chemistry, 115(1), 32-36.
2) Yang, J. P., Hsu, T., Lin, F., Hsu, W., & Chen, Y. (2012). Potential antidiabetic activity of extracellular polysaccharides in submerged fermentation culture of Coriolus versicolor LH1. Carbohydrate Polymers, 90(1), 174-180.