Today's show is with Dr. Bob Beelman from Penn State University. Bob is a PhD that has researched mushrooms and nutrition and studied fungi since the early 1970s, and is very informed on something called ergot, which is a protein, an amino acid protein found in mushrooms that supports many major health and wellness benefits by acting as a strong antioxidant. And helping deal with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and other things like that. Bob's been researching mushrooms for a long time, he’s got a lot of great stories around what he's learned and is very informed and very knowledgeable about the nutritious benefits of mushrooms. Enjoy the show.
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Morning, Bob, thank you for joining the show. Good morning. So you're joining us today from Penn State University, and your expertise is in the area of fungi, and so you have a lot of good knowledge to share with us about the healthiness of mushrooms and why we should all be focusing on trying to Get mushrooms into our diets. So before we do that, why don't we tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your background, and then we can get into the good stuff.
Okay, well, I'm a professor of Science at Penn State and retired. I put in quotes, retired, almost 12 years now. And I was actually hired there. Penn State in 1970 to do wine research, 'cause this was the time when wine was starting to become popular in the United States, and every state that had grapes in the ground to... They should get into that. And it was one of those... And I remember the ad hired me, it was the head of the horticulture, the part we didn't have food science at the time, and he came to see me, he said, Bobby said, This wine thing, we don't know whether it's gonna work out or not, so I want you to spend half of your research time on mushrooms, because we have a strong mushroom industry here in Pennsylvania, and they have problems and they're always coming to us, and so...
Of course, I knew nothing about mushrooms, virtually nothing about fungi, and so I dutifully follow his lead, and eventually the wine thing kind of fizzled out, and so the second half of my career, I spent my research time mostly on mushrooms, So even back in 1970, 75% of the mushrooms... Well, first of all, about 80% of the mushrooms in the United States are grown in, Pennsylvania... Oh my gosh. And about 70% of those were canned and 30% were fresh, and so most of my early work was on canning technology, and the big problem they had was what they called shrinkage. I think everyone's seen, when you could say mushrooms in a skillet, they shrink down as you're watching them, they just disappear, they lose a lot of water, they're 90-90 work with that water in the net when you're handing them and they were sold on a drained weight basis, all that loss was an economic loss, so I worked on that and that eventually the Fresh Market gained popular already in fact, completely a switch to to where almost all of them are so fresh now in a fewer processed...
And the biggest problem they had done was shelf life, 'cause as we know that, they're very perishable, and so I worked with the growers in trying to improve shuffle and do a number of things. We actually developed a method of wash mushrooms, but we got a patent on, and it was... At one time, it was one of the lucrative patents that the College of Agriculture had the pen state mushroom sometimes forming the pacing layer where they're on and they come up with all that material anime. A lot of people think it's manure and it's really casing, it's really Patmos, but of course it doesn't look good on a bright white mushroom. No, so we develop that. But anyway, and then I started to get... This was sort of the age, I can't remember when it would have been, where functional foods and nutraceuticals and all that things started to become popular, and so I thought, You know, maybe the shift should be towards the medicinal nutritional aspects of mushroom. So that's what I focused on the last 10 years of my career or something like that, and of course, ever since then, I've been on the next 12 years now.
Let's talk about that. Everybody, I think that's listening, most people listening are aware of my affinity for mushrooms personally and how they've helped with my health and wellness, and I'd love to just know from you from doing research, what are the top benefits that you've seen nutritionally for mushrooms.
Well, I would say now it's mitigation of chronic diseases and the improvement of life expectancies, and there's, I think a lot of evidence to point in that direction, it's hard to say whether it's just completely cause and effect relationship or what, but we call them an association for example, this was certainly... I got to thinking, I wonder if there's data out there about how mushrooms impact life expectancy... Chronic is a life expectancy. And at around that time, there was a study that came out of a group in France who estimated the amount of ERGO that is consumed, and we haven't talked about it, but it's been the focus of my research the last probably 15 years since it's only produced in nature of fungi, and since mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi that they're loaded with this or mining, which is a strong, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and is actually an amino acid.
Is ERGO in all mushrooms, Bob, or are there certain varieties that are more rich in ERGO
Yeah, it's in all mushrooms, but there are some that are much richer, it varies. Unfortunately for the mushroom industry that grows mostly the Button mushroom, they happened to be the lowest, of course. And interestingly enough, some of the wild mushrooms, which we can't cultivate are the highest,
So Ergothioneine, or ERGO, is the compound that you've researched the most extensively with mushrooms, right, is that correct? And so when I was reading some of your... The literature you provided, you're talking about antioxidant properties of ERGO.. is this... A lot of times, there's a lot of different information out there on mushrooms, and I don't wanna say this information 'cause I don't think people are doing it on purpose, but do you find anything with regards to ERGO or any of the other nutrients you've studied, it does it come out better once the mushrooms are cooked or is it raw, how do you recommend that folks consume mushrooms if they're focused on getting that specific ergo nutrient?
Well, fortunately, ERGO is very stable, so it survives most any cooking, in fact, it survived baking quite well, which quite high temperatures. One of the problematic aspects is it's very water-silo, if you were to cook mushrooms and water or something and throw the water out at the end, you'd be throwing out a lot of the ERGO, 'cause it would leach out into the water.
It's also quite stable. I've kept mushrooms, dried mushrooms for years, and the level of ERGO remains or elective-y stable and doesn't decline. So that's a good thing. One of the things I found is, there's only about 50% of the population that eat them in large amounts, there's about half the population of people that don't like them, and we are afraid of them, I'm not sure exactly what he is, and the ones that don't like them... Mostly tell me they don't like the texture so one of the things that I find is the easiest way to consume them, but I think is to dry them and grind them up, make a powder out of them, and then you can incorporate it into any dish or a smoothie. .
Mushroom smoothies or... There's tons of ways to use them, and so most of the nutrients to survive a hotter drying procedure, In fact, I kidding me, tell everybody that I have a son-in-law who doesn't like mushrooms, we're not sure how he got into family, but other than that, he's a fantastic person, so... Right, right. Anyway, a couple of times we give things that have mushrooms, he doesn't know about it, but I always tell him...
Yeah, the show is brought to you by a new business that I'm involved with called packed with Life, which is a mushroom tea. And we really got involved in this business. It was something my wife was interested in, and he really came down from just trying to explore new ways to get healthy nutrients into your body, and I heard just through the grapevine and some of the folks that I'm networked with, that researchers at Johns Hopkins University are doing research on the nutrients for mushrooms, they often use a hot water extract or a tea in order to best preserve and deliver those nutrients to the research subjects so that they make sure they're getting a good.test. And I guess based on your knowledge, that would triangulate with what you've said with regards to much from nutrients being very water-soluble tolerant to heat and you don't wanna throw that water out necessarily 'cause it's very rich then and the nutrients. What do you think about teas as a mushroom delivery mechanism for some of those folks who don't necessarily like mushrooms
Yeah, I think that's a fantastic way to do it. And I know there's a lot of mushroom coffees now so it seems like that's a very growing business, and I've done that myself on it on occasion where it takes on my pushover and mix it in with the coffee and drip coffee makers, I think is a fantastic way to get it, the only problem is you do throw out the inside parts of the mushroom, which the fiber and the data Lucas and some of those components that are good, so the best thing is to put them in where you get the whole thing.
Well, it's interesting you say that because what I've been doing lately is I either make the tea and then add the liquid to my smoothie, or I drink the tea throughout the day, but sometimes I take the grounds from the tea bag and put them in a smoothie, and then get all of that kind of benefit. I respect you being a professor and being in research and not wanting to make claims and all that, and I don't wanna go there at all either, but have you had any experiences... I've had folks on the show that have things like autoimmune disease cured by a mushroom diet, you know, there was a woman Kesha Stickland who was on the show who started the mushroom meat company, and she had a really severe accident many years ago and developed Hashimoto's disease as a result of that, and anyway, her main story is that she's changed her diet and went more alkaline and included mushrooms and all of a sudden, you know, she's fine, and I've heard of other anecdotal experiences like that with other different types of autoimmune diseases, even like RA, as an example, rheumatoid arthritis cured by mushrooms, but is there anything you can speak to about that without putting you in uncomfortable position?
Well, in regard to that, there's been a lot of epidemiological studies done related to mushroom consumption versus various situations, and I have a collaboration, very good collaboration with a professor in our medical school Penn State Medical School and we can talk more about some of the stuff we've done together, but he's had a postdoc working with him the last year or so, he's an epidemiologist, and so he's done all these studies where he's gone back and looked at the data from all these studies that the government has collected on what people eat, and you can associate that with various diseases, an overlay, and he's found that as people increase mushroom consumption, their cancer rate is lower, their depression rates are lower cognitive impairment is lower... He’s had four papers in the last year on this, the one that came out the last in a really highly respected journal. Cancer has gotten a lot of press. So it's kind of hard to tease the data out of that because it's all based on food frequency questionnaires, or they ask people to report what they've consumed, challenging when you take that over thousands of people.
Usually the truth comes out. So yeah, I don't have any problem promoting that, where we're lacking the gold-standard double-blind placebo-controlled clinical studies, which are so expensive and so difficult to conduct. But it'd be great if we could get more of that kind of thing going. And I've always thought the amount of money we spend on healthcare in this country and everything like that, that it would be well worth it.
If we really wanted to cure people of things, that would be it, right, but I'm skeptical about that myself...Anyway, we won't go there. What about... There's a lot of... And even in the Packed with Life mushroom tea that I was talking about, Lion's Mane, Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps are kind of a big four, people talk about Turkey Tail as well. Those are kind of the big four or five mushrooms, what's your experience with those
The only personal experience I've had with it would be with the Lion's Mane, and a lot of that came from... I have a friend and colleague in Italy at the University of Pavia who has been working on Lion’s Mane around cognitive issues and stuff, bringing it in and publishing papers on it, and of course, the lion's mane is often tapped for that. And also, since Penn State are the Nittany Lions. I've always thought that the lion's mane is a perfect fit.
Right? Fits well, but you know, when you talk about all those... We talk about hot water extracts, and even like the Chinese have been making hot water extracts out of reishi and other mushrooms, and of course, they make all sorts of claims in Chinese medicine and whatever, a lot of which are hard to really decipher from the western point of view.
0:22:57.6 S1: Yeah, Denis Vidmar, who's a mushroom Advocate, he's got a mushroom store just opened up in Detroit, Michigan, he was on the show recently, and he told me the story about the 1993 Olympics…the Chinese were setting records and they were claiming that they were not doping, they were just drinking cordyceps tea for energy…turns out, of course they were doping, but the fact that they would even say that they were using cordyceps tea for energy... cordyceps tea for superior athletic performance, I find very interesting, right, because that's the knowledge that they've had about these mushrooms for thousands of years and that they have passed down and we're still figuring it out. And of course, cordyceps tea for recovery, cordyceps is one of those mushrooms that people talk about with recovery and athletic performance...
Right, exactly. And I got interested in diet and athletic performance a number of years ago regarding vitamin D, and there was a book out at that time, I can't remember it was written by a psychiatrist on the west coast and worked in a supposed to his career in a mental hospital out there, but he also worked with autistic children, and so he thought there was a link there with autism with lack of vitamin D in the diet really. But somehow he got into athletic performance, I can't remember what the time was, but there's a lot of anecdotal evidence, at least about vitamin D and athletic performance…the athletic programs here at Penn State were interested in looking into this. but speaking of anecdotal things about the Olympics, in this book, he talks about the fact that there were more records set at the Mexico City Olympics, and at least at the time, This book was out a anytime, and one of the interesting things was because of the altitude there, most of the athletes went there for a month or two early to train and use an altitude, but they were out in this bright son all the time and picking up vitamin D.... I do think there's something there.
Well, and for those who are listening, you are putting two and two together that the mushrooms are very rich in vitamin D, right. That's the other piece of this. And they also absorb vitamin D from the sun if you actually take the raw mushrooms out in the sun before you cook them and eat them, they'll absorb even more vitamin D.
I watched that presentation is very, very interesting. Grafton rub I do have, though, is that a lot of mushrooms have no vitamin D because they never see any light, and for some reason, because they do make Vitamin D for using the sun, a lot of the people that write in these journals of nutritional food stuff and everything, always mushrooms is one of the better in natural sources of vitamin D…... But if you do put them in the sun, you have direct... Good, son. You can make it... We actually developed a method to enrich mushrooms, a vitamin D, you're using pulse UV light, and we have a patent on it, dentate, and we have a couple of companies that are using it, but we don't use that in the growing and the growing mechanism, But we found that you can actually put it on a conveyor belt when they're passing along, and the light is so powerful that one second, there's three of these pulses in one second, you can get two or three times the daily value of Vitamin D...
Yeah. What have I not asked you about that you'd really like to share... Is there anything that is on your mind that you'd like to share about your work?
Well, going back to the ERGO thing, there's a lot of evidence that the amount of ERGO in the body... Human body declines with age, that's well established, and it's been shown by a number of studies that it declines faster with people that have chronic diseases, for example, there's a group in Singapore, Dr. Hallowell and his group has done a lot of excellent studies and they've shown that as people age, they're level goes down and goes down significantly faster than people that have cognitive impairment and in similar study, they found people that have Parkinson's disease have half as much on average, or defining in their blood than age matched, normal depend.
Then there was a recent study done in Brazil, where people that have sickle cell disease have about half the level running in their blood. And so I think there's a lot of these chronic diseases that occur more extensively and people that have low amounts now, one of the questions is, do these people have low ERGO in their blood because the disease causes that, or is the fact that they have low levels caused the disease …and we haven't been able to figure that out, you...
Because again, it's difficult to do these studies in human clinical studies, but I have a little collaboration going with some people at the medical school of Vanderbilt University, Alzheimer's research group, and I was asked to give a talk here a few years ago, which I did with fear and trepidation to a group of medical researchers. And anyway, so this guy comes up to me afterwards, he said, Obviously, this is unbelievable. 'cause I talked about Western components that could help mitigate chronic diseases including Alzheimer's, and this guy is a radiological chemist, and he has a system where he puts the head of the mouse into a scanning machine and injects the mouse with ERGO in their tail, and he watches the ERGO go into their body. Real-time, real time, in minutes, it's throughout the body and brain...
And especially in the areas of the brain that are involved in memory and that kind of thing, so they just got done publishing a paper where they fed mice that have a propensity to get Alzheimer's disease is a genetic model, and then they compared that with normal wild type mice and they found that it did mitigate some of the tangles in the brain and whatever the content they think causes it, and did improve their memory. Yeah, I think there's a lot of agreement there, the other thing I wanted to mention is just life expectancy, because we all talk about chronic diseases, mitigating chronic Disease, and of course, that's very closely related to our life expectancy. So earlier mentioned that was a study that came out estimating the amount of ERGO consumed in the diet of people in five countries, and the US had the lowest and the Italian had the highest.
So I got to thinking, maybe there's some data I can use on chronic diseases from those countries, and I chose Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and he would behold and lifetime, you get this beautiful curves of as people... And we have, for example, in the US, the highest rates of the diseases and the lowest ERGO, and everything else was in line, it's sort of a nice here, and I remember showing no was to a couple of my friends, I still... Bogus doesn't mean anything. You want that, right? Associations. And so I remember I was sending us around to a number of people, and I sent it to the head of the... The guy, the under the turn of Alzheimer's disease, who's at the University of Texas, San Antonio, and I asked him if he would be wanting to talk to me on the phone, and most people... I send that information, you'd never hear back from them... I'd say 90 over 90%. But he got right back to me. I told him about these figures, I said, I'd be afraid to show them to you because people laugh at me, he said, Well, I won't laugh, because that's exactly the kind of way we find out out the relationship between fat consumption and the cancer, an observations that you have to do...
So then I decided to add Japan to the mix and I had to do my own estimation of the amount of refining consume in Japan, and it turns out there was the highest, and they also have the highest life expectancy in the lowest rates of diseases. So I think there's something there. And the reason why the Japanese have such a high assumption as they consume three times as many mushrooms as we do in the US, and the mushrooms they consume have three times as much ERGO they consume on the states or whatever. And they have the highest life expectancy, second highest in the world on... On might be the first. So I really think there's something there that needs to be flushed out. And I spend half of my day, every day my wife, kids made that, being on the computer after day or whatever, trying to figure out how to find people that are interested in working in this area and whatever, and it hasn't been very highly successful.
Well, I think... First of all, thank you for doing what you're doing and for your passion, and I think that I hope things are gonna change in that regard soon and they are changing. You know, the fact that I called you and wanted to talk about this, this is... It's starting to permeate society in terms of the knowledge that we're still way far behind and still early, but you know the more we're here, I'm here in Boulder, Colorado, and you talk to people, there's definitely an awareness in this town, in this state about mushrooms for Health and there's a lot of twisted knowledge out there, 'cause when people... Most people kinda laugh and chuckle when you say mushrooms, 'cause they think you're talking about the psilocybin and psychedelic mushrooms, which obviously have a role as well, but not in this conversation... They steal all the press with regards to the studies that are being done when there's boring mushrooms, like we're talking about, that have just as much, if not more promise, if your goal is Health care. Alright, so I'm hoping your work is gonna become more in demand and there's gonna be more people wanting to talk to you about these...
And the other aspect of that, that I wanted to mention if you have time... So I got to thinking about this one day about the fact that If ERGO is important on mitigating chronic diseases and improving life expectancy and everything, and half of the population of the United States consumed, very few of it, opinion some cases, where are they getting rating because it was well known that everybody has it in their blood, and in fact, in 2005, German biochemist I've gotten to know pretty quite well, discovered that all mammals make a genetically-coded transport protein for ERGO, which pulls it into the red blood cells immediately upon consumption within 30 minutes, we've actually seen that and then distribute it around the body, and it tends to accumulate in the tissues with the most oxidative stress, and then it retains it, normally it a water cable content, it'll be excreted rather quickly in the year and will... A kidney has very high levels of just transport, so it recycles, it doesn't allow it to go out in the urine...
Wow. That's a signal, isn't it?
But when this came out, people go, Wow, this must mean there's something here, the body really wants this... What's the reason? So I got to thinking, worked, there was a paper that could come out earlier, it showed that there's low levels of this and everything, almost any food or whatever you measure, you can measure very trace amounts of ERGO, and I thought to myself were coming from... And then I think it's gotta be the fungi in the soil probably. So I remember calling up a soil microbiologist on campus and asking if there was any knowledge about the way we're farming now might be negatively affecting the fungi in the soil. She said, Oh absolutely, we know that. And I remember asking, Well, would you like to do some collaboration? And I remember she said, Well, if you have funds to do that, I'd be interested in, but... So that's... But I had this theory that the amount of ERGO in our food supply is being compromised by the way we farm... Grow our food. And I started looking more and more into that, and I remember telling my colleague at Hershey about my hypothesis, and luckily, a year or so later, there was a big meeting called at the medical school there, where the people at the roda Institute asked for a meeting with the higher-ups medical school there, I don't know if you know about the Rodin Institute, but its the group that started the organic farming in the United States back in the 30s, and they've been promoting organic agriculture ever since, they're relocated not far from Hershey. And so they've always had this mantra, healthy soil. It goes healthy. He calls healthy food, he was healthy people. And they said, You know, we have a lot of data about the first part, but very little about the relationship to human health, is there some way we can collaborate and the dean of the medical school there, and my colleague who is just a Professor of Public Health Science and I got a biochemist, he said, You know, I've got this colleague that's got this hypothesis about the way we farm's, the amount of verifying and getting into the food chain, so we started a relationship and then we were able to look into some of the crops they were growing there and found that there's a relationship between tilling the soil is a common practice, it's very destructive to the soil, and in fact, I heard one guy talk about the worst thing ever happened in the human history as the development of the plow.
When you 'cause tilling is destroying these mycelium networks, right.
Exactly. And we found that it definitely does that, and we've now just published a paper and agronomy journal,
But there's all sorts of not just tell, but the use of use or non-use of cover crops, operations, all these things affect the health of the soil, and the health of the soil is based on two things are gaining matter and microbial populations, and so I think there's something very, very important, but so there is this growing movement called regenerative agriculture... Yes, that's what I was involved with, were reduced Telnet support, cover crops, proportions and reduced use of chemicals, the organic people then would take that a step further and eliminate the chemicals, but it's much easier to get people to think about converting to regenerative where they can hold on to some of their chemicals, but a lot of those chemicals negatively affect the Micronesian... One of the big things, for example, Nigerian Coalition, which is used everywhere, COPA mounts, and especially in areas that these monoculture of soy being some corn, where they don't practice any of these methods, they tell the soil, they don't know it's cover crops, they use lots of nitrogen fertilizers and everything, and what's interesting is they're degrading the soil at the same time erosion occurs, and the lack of organic matter that occurs, and so a study was done recently that we've lost a third of the top soil in the Cornell...
In the United States now, and lots of it is winding up in the Mississippi River and then goes into... That does it to the Mississippi.
Well, it's been fantastic talking to you. I've learned so much already, and hopefully our audience has as well, this is something that I'd like to stay in touch with you about, and like I said, make some connections with you and follow your work some more because I think... It sounds to me like you're on to something really important here. My great-grandfather had Alzheimer's, so that's at the top of my list of things to avoid. With Health and Wellness and nutrition.
Yeah, I think all us that are getting grey in the beard level or worry about that time.
That's no good. We don't want that. It's a big reason why, if not, one of the major reasons why I've personally focused so much on nutrition. Well, Bob, thank you so much. I would love to stay in touch, like I said, we'll end the podcast here, but I love you could stick on the line for a couple more minutes and we could talk about a couple of things that I'd like to follow up with you on, but it's been great having you. Great meeting you and thank you for the work that you're doing.
Okay, well, thanks, right, and having an
Awesome... Well, thanks very much. We hope you enjoyed the show.
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