School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Edible mushrooms are ideal health foods that are high in carbohydrates, proteins and micronutrients but low in fats. Among these nutrients, mushroom carbohydrates contain sugars (trehalose), sugar alcohols (xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol), energy-storage polysaccharides (glycogen), cell wall structural polysaccharides (mainly beta-glucans, heteroglycans and chitin) and polysaccharide-protein complexes (PSPCs) such as mannoproteins. Mushroom polysaccharides can be isolated from the fruiting bodies, mycelia and culture medium (as exopolysaccharides). Among these carbohydrates, mushroom cell wall polysaccharides and PSPCs are well-known for their multi-functions to human health. Traditionally, mushroom beta-glucans (MBGs) and PSPCs are particularly best known for their health benefits as biological response modifiers (BMRs) while MBGs and chitin can function as dietary fibre (DF). As BMRs, MBGs and PSPCs can stimulate or modulate the immune response in humans to fight against diseases like cancer and other infections. As DF, MBGs and chitin can attenuate human blood cholesterol and glucose levels that have health implications to cardiovascular heart diseases and diabetes. Recently, emerging evidences have shown that mushroom polysaccharides, especially MBGs have neurotrophic and antioxidant functions as well as prebiotic property to selectively promote the growth of probiotics in the human gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, mushroom polysaccharides have significant biological functions to human health and are valuable functional ingredients for the health food industry. This talk will give an overview of both the conventional and emerging health benefits of mushroom polysaccharides to human health and diseases and their application as functional food ingredients.

Keywordsbiological response modifiers, energy-storage polysaccharides, cell wall structural polysaccharides, polysaccharide-protein complexes, mushroom beta-glucans

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