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When it comes to the leading causes of death in the world, cancer and heart disease are always tussling for the top spot. The key distinction between the two is that the latter is preventable if you commit to a healthy lifestyle. Cancerous cells are more intractable but research does suggest you can hinder the process by making healthy lifestyle interventions.
Particular dietary items have been shown to pack properties that may offer protection against both chronic diseases.
Lion’s mane mushrooms – large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow – have yielded encouraging results.
Take heart disease. Major contributors to heart disease include obesity, high triglycerides (substances found in the blood), large amounts of oxidised cholesterol (fatty substances) and an increased tendency to get blood clots.
Research shows that lion’s mane extract can influence some of these factors and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Studies in rats and mice have found that lion’s mane mushroom extract improves fat metabolism and lowers triglyceride levels.
One study in rats fed a high-fat diet and given daily doses of lion’s mane extract observed 27 percent lower triglyceride levels and 42 percent less weight gain after 28 days.
Since obesity and high triglycerides are both considered risk factors for heart disease, this is one way that lion’s mane mushrooms contribute to heart health.
Test-tube studies have also found that lion’s mane extract can help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
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Oxidation is a normal chemical process in the body, but the type of cholesterol that sticks to your artery walls – raising your risk of heart disease – is oxidised, which can be dangerous.
Therefore, reducing oxidation is beneficial for heart health.
What’s more, lion’s mane mushrooms contain a compound called hericenone B, which can decrease the rate of blood clotting and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke, research shows.
The anti-cancer promise of lion’s mane
Some research suggests that lion’s mane mushroom has cancer-fighting abilities, owing to several of its unique compounds.
In fact, when lion’s mane extract is mixed with human cancer cells in a test tube, they cause the cancer cells to die at a faster rate.
This has been demonstrated with several types of cancer cells, including liver, colon, stomach and blood cancer cells.
However, at least one study has failed to replicate these results, so more studies are needed.
What’s more, lion’s mane extract has also been shown to slow the spread of cancer.
One study in mice with colon cancer found that taking lion’s mane extract reduced the spread of cancer to the lungs by 69 percent.
Another study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective than traditional cancer medications at slowing tumour growth in mice, in addition to having fewer side effects.
It is worth noting that the anti-cancer effects of lion’s mane mushrooms have never been tested in humans, so more research is needed.
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