Next time you order a pizza or whip up a creamy risotto, go ahead and load on the mushrooms.
Adding more of the edible fungi into your diet may be one way to counteract the health risks associated with the Western-style diet (WSD), which often features an abundance of fatty foods and added sugars.
Fatty and sugary foods contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and a host of other chronic health issues.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst investigated how modifiable factors such as diet and lifestyle and their metabolically related gene variants interact to influence the development of chronic diseases.
The team focused on identifying metabolic targets to prevent or treat obesity and insulin resistance.
"Intestinal dysfunction is thought to be one of the underlying mechanisms that contribute so significantly to the development of WSD-related diseases," said nutritionist Zhenhua Liu, Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the varsity.
In a previous research, the team found that a rarely studied bacterium, Turicibacter, is almost completely depleted by high fat diet-induced obesity, but not genetic obesity.
But they found that sundried oyster mushrooms, found throughout most of the world, possesses a unique dietary composition rich with multiple nutrients lacking in the Western-style diet, such as dietary fibre and vitamin D.
"It's a perfect supplement as a natural whole food to improve the quality of Western-style diets, with the added benefit of improving our overall gut health," Liu said.
Liu's study will examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which these mushrooms improve gut health.
Specifically, the team will examine the mushroom's interaction with Turicibacter in Western-style diet-related intestinal dysfunction and the effect it may have on reshaping gut microbiome.
"We hope this study will provide the mechanistic understanding of the role of Turicibacter in dietary obesity and gut health," Liu said.
"It will also provide important insight into mushrooms as a whole-food approach to improve the quality of WSD and gut health."