BIORESEARCH UPDATE NEWS LETTER #6 Weight Control with Medicinal Mushrooms


Combination for Improved Weight Control with Medicinal Mushrooms and Other Compounds

 Ken Babal, C.N.

 Most of us know by now that there is no “magic pill” for weight-loss. Reducing body fat requires less food (calories in) along with an increase in energy expenditure (calories out). Nutritionists will disagree about the best proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrate, but there is a strong consensus that limiting high-glycemic foods and controlling blood sugar are critical factors and keys to successful weight management. This is because sharp blood sugar fluctuations lead to insulin resistance and increase the likelihood that calories will be stored as fat. There are, however, highly effective agents that support blood sugar levels, block absorption of starch, and improve fat metabolism, thereby enhancing a person’s weight-loss efforts.

Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome

Insulin resistance is a condition in which muscle cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, causing insulin and glucose levels to remain high. Insulin resistance develops over years of excessive intake of sugars and high-glycemic foods coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. Insulin resistance is recognized as a chief underlying cause of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDLs. This cluster of conditions, which often appear together, is referred to as metabolic syndrome or syndrome X, and sets the stage for diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancers.

Abdominal obesity is an important feature of metabolic syndrome and an indicator of developing insulin resistance. Abdominal obesity is not overall obesity, but specifically the “spare tire” around the waist determined by waist measurement. A waist circumference of more than 39 inches for men and 34 inches for women indicates abdominal obesity and is a red flag for insulin resistance.

Most people who are overweight have insulin resistance. There’s a “chicken and egg” debate, though, as to which event happens first. Does being overweight cause insulin resistance or vice versa? One thing we know is insulin lowers blood sugar by facilitating its entry into cells to be burned for energy. Insulin, however, is also a fat storage hormone because it converts glucose ultimately into fat. Because the link between diabetes and obesity is so strong, the combination has been termed “diabesity.” It is likely that each contributes to the other; the more obese one is the more likely one is insulin resistant; and the more insulin resistant, the greater likelihood of obesity.

SX-Fraction from Maitake Mushroom

The anti-obesity activity of maitake mushroom has been studied in both animals and humans.1 Results of tests with overweight rats indicate that after 18 weeks those fed maitake powder lost weight, whereas controls gained weight. In a human study, thirty patients were given twenty 500 mg. maitake tablets for a period of two months with no change in their regular diets. All of the patients lost weight (between 7 and 26 pounds) with an average loss of 11 to 13 pounds.

Maitake has been shown to contain immune stimulating compounds, which have been concentrated in the extract called D-Fraction. Further research was conducted to identify and isolate maitake’s insulin enhancing, anti-obesity fraction. The result was SX-Fraction, a glycoprotein so-named because it demonstrated a remarkable ability to improve features of syndrome X. In 2007, it was awarded a U.S. patent for anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive, anti-obesity and anti-hyperlipidemic effects.2 In 2001, a clinical study found that Type 2 diabetics taking SX-Fraction for two months were able to significantly reduce their fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, insulin and body weight.3

SX-Fraction is available as a stand-alone, but is also found synergistic effect when used with Phase2® bean extract, L-carnitine and Tremella mushroom.

 Synergistic Compounds

Phase2® (phaseolamin) is a standardized extract from white kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) that inhibits alpha-amylase, an enzyme the body produces to break down starches into sugars. Phaseolamin reduces the rate of assimilation of starches such as potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. These high-glycemic carbs tend to cause rapid elevations in blood sugar. Also, the primary role of carbohydrate is to provide fuel for energy. However, if we are not physically active carbs are easily converted into body fat.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed with 60 overweight subjects who were divided into two groups.4 Phaseolamin or placebo was taken one tablet per day before a main meal rich in carbohydrates. After thirty days, subjects receiving phaseolamin had greater reduction of body weight, BMI, fat mass, adipose tissue thickness and waist/hip/thigh circumferences while maintaining lean body mass compared to subjects receiving the placebo.

L-Carnitine is a vitamin-like amino acid that aids fat metabolism because it helps the body utilize fat as a source of energy. Healthy bodies can manufacture it, but if it is in short supply fats accumulate in tissues. Specifically, L-carnitine serves to shuttle fatty acids across cell membranes and into the mitochondria where they are burned for energy. Its impact on fat metabolism is so efficient, many doctors prescribe it to reduce high triglycerides (a blood fat). There is evidence that some forms of obesity may be related to a genetic propensity to produce less L-carnitine. Animal studies have shown that, in conjunction with a slight reduction in calories, L-carnitine can significantly improve weight loss.

Tremella is a gelatinous mushroom composed of 70 percent fiber, which makes it useful for weight management, irregularity and managing cholesterol. Fiber is important to move food along the digestive tract. Another benefit is its ability to act like a sponge, absorbing fats and sugars and slowing their entry into the bloodstream.

Thus, SX-Fraction, a glycoprotein extract from Maitake mushroom is considered as one of an alternative method for improving insulin sensitivity and small or moderate weight loss.


  1. Ohtsuru, M. “Anti-Obesity Activity Exhibited by Orally Administered Powder of Maitake (Grifola frondosa),” Anshin, 188-200, July 1992.
  2. U.S. Patent No. 7,214,778 for “Glycoprotein with Anti-Diabetic, Anti-Hypertensive, Anti-Obesity and Anti-Hyperlipidemic Effects from (Grifola frondosa), and a Method for Preparing Same.” (2007)
  3. Konno, S. et al “A possible hypoglycemic effect of maitake mushroom on type 2 diabetic patients.” Diabetic Med. 18, 2001.
  4. Celleno, L et al “A Dietary Supplement Containing Standardized Phaseolus vulgaris Extract Influences Body Composition of Overweight Men and Women.” Int J Med Sci 2007,4; pp 45-52.