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A Cup of Joe with Immune Support

By Lisa Olivo, Associate Editor | April 10, 2014

Reishi mushrooms used to enhance flavor and provide immune boosting beta-glucans.

A unique process designed to deliver a smoother, less-bitter cup of coffee can now add immune support to its list of benefits.
MycoTechnology Inc., Aurora, CO, first pursued creating better tasting coffee, at a lower price point for manufacturers and consumers. Through cutting edge research, the company developed the process of Myceliation, by which Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) are conditioned to consume the bitter, acidic qualities of coffee beans. By way of the mushrooms roots, or mycelium, the unpleasant taste is extracted through a natural fermentation process.
While the original goal was enhancing flavor, the company’s chief science officer, Brooks Kelly PhD, spent years researching mushrooms, and became keenly aware of their beneficial qualities in supporting good health. An expert in medical and environmental mycology, Dr. Kelly conducted cancer research after earning his doctorate studying DNA Repair and the Cell Cycle from Pennsylvania State University's Deptartment of Molecular Biology.
According to Alan Hahn CEO and founder of MycoTechnology, the genesis of the company really came to fruition, in part, because of Dr. Kelly’s own health struggles.
Diagnosed with cancer at the age of 17, his research and education had a personal vested interest. Mr. Hahn explained that during Dr. Kelly’s studies, “he started coming across mushrooms, and began learning about how to help himself with them, and that’s what really started the journey with our company. He’s been working on this for 30 years. He’s now 52 years old and still has tumors on his legs and arms, but he has kept them in check, and he believes that mushrooms have helped him a lot.”
Mushrooms & Beta-Glucans
It turns out that during the Myceliation process­­­ these mushrooms also pass along their beneficial immune modulating components along to the coffee beans, making the coffee more delicious and nutritious. New research conducted by Brunswick Laboratories, Southborough, MA, confirmed the presence of beta-glucans from the mushrooms in the company’s ReishiSmooth coffee. Beta-glucans have been found to activate the human immune system by raising the level of macrophages and T-cells in the body.
“Beta glucans are naturally occurring in the mushrooms, and so when mushrooms feed they not only take, they give,” said Mr. Hahn. “So they go after simple sugars, they go after oxygen, and they go after moisture. But when they take these elements they give back the nutritional benefits of the mushrooms in the form of beta-glucans.”
Describing beta-glucan’s method of action, he explained, “the-beta glucans themselves are a form of sugar—they’re long strands of sugar—and your white blood cells have receptors on them to grab these sugars, and they stimulate your immune system.”
Long used in Eastern and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Reishi mushroom was referred to as the “mushroom of immortality” and “medicine of the kings” for its immune supporting capabilities. References to its use date back as far as the Han Dynasty in 200 BC, where the bitter mushroom was ground in food or added to tea.
“Over the years Reishi mushrooms have become a staple in Asian cultures for medicinal purposes,” stated Mr. Hahn. “Key benefits of these mushrooms include anti-inflammatory characteristics, as well as the immune boosting characteristics.”
The company has also developed a strain of cordyceps mushrooms that thrives off of coffee and chocolate, and can grow very rapidly. Mr. Hahn explained that cordyceps is the most powerful Asian mushroom, followed by Reishi mushrooms, and the company utilizes both depending on the product.
Future Innovations
With the success of its ReishiSmooth coffee, MycoTechnology is exploring new food and beverages that can utilize the Myceliation process. Mr. Hahn noted that chocolate is among the company’s current areas of development.
“People are very excited about it, because when you reduce the bitterness of chocolate, now you can reduce the cost of manufacturing by having less ingredients, like less sugar, or eliminating sugar. And then from an individual point of view, now you have a product with fewer calories. So you get the health benefits of the chocolate, and the beta-glucans, without consuming a bunch of sugar.”
The company is also working with grains and rice to enhance with beta-glucans, as well as stevia and green tea. “Basically anything that’s bitter, we’re going to try to see if we can remove that bitterness, and enhance the flavor and value of it,” he said.
The company’s next big release is a “Green Coffee Tea,” which is a new way for consumers to use the ever-popular green coffee extract. Since green coffee is extremely bitter it is most commonly consumed in a pill. However, scientists at MycoTechnology have used the unique process “to remove the bitterness, and instead of roasting the coffee we just grind it green, and you can brew it like a regular coffee can be brewed, but it tastes like a green tea,” said Mr. Hahn.
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